Partners in the News: Partner Profile: Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC)

As featured in SkillUp Washington’s latest newsletter.

For those not familiar with AJAC, can you tell us a little about the organization?

Around 2008, a number of factors including pending retirements, increased global competition and rapidly changing technology were causing great concern among both union and non-union employers and training organizations in the Aerospace industry. Spurred by these shared concerns amongst employers and heavily backed by the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District Lodge 751, the Washington State legislature appropriated funds for the creation of a training organization, the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC), to develop and implement a 21st century version of the proven model of apprenticeship training.

Some elements of this “21st century” model of apprenticeship training include: “earning while learning”, we achieve this through a combination of 10% classroom and 90% structured on-the-job training as well as partnering with local community and technical colleges to attach college credit to the classroom training portion while offering a 50% reduction in tuition for apprentices. This can lead to a debt-free 2-year degree upon completion of the apprenticeship program. Not only are all programs employer driven by occupation and location, AJAC brings employers together to design programs based on employer demand.

After the recession, local aerospace employers began diversifying their product portfolios to include products for other industries. As a result, AJAC now falls under the broad umbrella of Advanced Manufacturing which includes industries such as but not limited to: aerospace, biomedical, food processing and production manufacturing. AJAC currently trains to nine different occupations. Some are Machinist, Tool and Die, Industrial Maintenance Technician (MECHAtronics) and a youth apprenticeship occupation entitled Production Technician.

There is big a movement for youth apprenticeship in Washington state, can you share with our readers what led to this?

It is all employer driven. There are a lot of people eligible to retire; however, we don’t have enough people coming into the workforce to fill the gap this eventual exit will cause. To address this and other employer needs for multiple pipelines into industry, in 2017 with the support and assistance of several State agencies, AJAC developed the first advanced manufacturing registered youth apprenticeship program in Washington State. Registered Youth Apprenticeship is meant to provide a pipeline into industry where employers can “grow their own” while providing high school students the opportunity to obtain real world job training and experience. These students receive both high school and college credits, are paid a progressive wage as their skills increase and are paired with an industry expert mentor for the structured on-the-job training required of the program. The youth apprentices work part time during the school year and full time during the summer break. This is a great opportunity to help ensure our young people are both career and college ready while providing employers with a direct pipeline from our secondary system.

Upon completion of the registered youth apprenticeship program, students will earn a nationally recognized portable credential, 15 college credits, up to 3 high school credits and 2,000 hours of structured on-the-job training. The registered youth apprenticeship opportunity has opened up a variety of options for students, with 1/3 of our initial cohort youth apprentices wanting to go directly into the workforce, 1/3 desiring to attend a local community/technical college and 1/3 desiring to go to a 4-year university.

How do people get involved with AJAC?

For someone who is interested in one of AJAC’s nine apprenticeship training programs, they can visit the AJAC website at:

If an individual is interested yet lacks the knowledge, skills and/or experience needed to get into industry; they can obtain information and enroll in the Manufacturing Academy, which is the AJAC pre-apprenticeship program. This program is 11 weeks in length and combines classroom and hands-on learning to develop the skills necessary for entry into industry. This program is often funded through various partnerships so they can be of no cost to the participant. The Manufacturing Academy also offers completers access to AJAC employer Training Agent partners providing an additional pipeline into industry for entry-level workers. After proving themselves on the job, there is an opportunity for the individual to transition into one of AJAC’s more advanced apprenticeship programs.

For more information on the Manufacturing Academy, please visit:

SkillUp has been integral in providing partnerships and funding to support AJAC’s new Advanced Manufacturing Training Center located in Kent, Washington. This new training center creates greater access to training for available jobs that existed within the Kent community. The Advanced Manufacturing Training Center will offer a menu of programs to include the Advanced Manufacturing Prep (AMP) program, a two-day orientation designed to help assess the job readiness of individuals for either referral straight to industry if ready, or referral to additional training programs like Manufacturing Academy or college certificate and/or degree programs.
In addition to AMP, the training center will provide youth apprenticeship, apprenticeship, limited short term training for employers to include mentorship training and other programs as developed through employer demand. The benefit to employers is in the proximity of the training, 1. It’s being conducted where their businesses are and 2. They can recruit program completers and help shape the training needs for their industry.

Looking ahead, what’s next for AJAC?

Quite a lot. We’re expanding our youth apprenticeship program and have seven agreements with our local school districts and will begin our second cohort recruitment in Spring of 2018 with a projected 75 new registered youth apprentices.

We also continue to add new occupations, some with shorter terms to complete, as determined by employer demand, while ensuring our current curriculum continues to meet industry needs.

Shifting our focus a bit, we are also engaging with local agencies who have access to the “forgotten” or “left behind” populations, this includes re-engaging out of school youth, the long term unemployed, the new immigrant populations and other groups not currently engaged in the workforce.

For information on AJAC programs and contact information, please visit the AJAC website at:


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