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Wash. colleges form alliance for composites industry

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Students training in composites at the Marine Manufacturing and Technology Center at Skagit Valley College.

Photo: SVC

​From aircraft to boats and wind turbines to sporting goods, Washington state’s rapidly growing composites industry is creating new jobs that require skilled technicians.

Skagit Valley College (SVC) has teamed up with seven other community and technical colleges to form Composites Washington, an alliance of community and technical colleges focused on strengthening workforce skills throughout the industry. Joining SVC are Clover Park Technical College, Edmonds Community College, Everett Community College, Olympic College, Peninsula College, Spokane Community College and South Seattle Community College.     

The alliance, comprising colleges that offer composites training, is led by two Washington State Centers of Excellence: Marine Manufacturing and Technology at SVC and Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing at Everett Community College. The centers work with community and technical colleges across the state to share curriculum, align education with industry training needs, and develop partnerships to support jobs and economic growth.

“The strength of the alliance is the diversity of industry focus and the commitment to standards-based training embraced by each college, and the professional development opportunities we are bringing in for faculty, students and industry partners,” said Ann Avary, director of the Center of Excellence for Marine Manufacturing and Technology at SVC.                    

A growing demand

Mary Kaye Bredeson, executive director of the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing, said the alliance was formed to fill an urgent need for qualified composite material technicians in an ever-growing number of industries. 

“We knew the timing was perfect to establish this group,” she said. “More than 100 Washington companies are already engaged in composites manufacturing, fabrication, repair and advanced materials research and development. We’re working to keep them strong and competitive and attract new industries to our state.”

While composites have been tied to the marine and aerospace industries, the evolution of composite technology is also creating opportunities for companies that build other products or supply the tools and materials needed to make them. One of those firms is Janicki Industries​, which designs and builds high-precision tooling for aerospace, marine, wind energy and transportation customers.

“We appreciate the efforts of groups like Composites Washington. A better trained workforce benefits all of us and helps us maintain our competitive advantage here in Washington,” said Tom Doughty, vice president of administration at Janicki.

Wes Fridell, human resources and safety manager for New World Yacht Builders, a company that makes custom high-end composite yachts and commercial vessels, had similar comments.

“The need for the alliance is great. We have benefitted — and will continue to benefit into the future — from a trained composites workforce,” he said. “Having the resources locally to train work-ready employees strengthens not only our company but the marine industry and local economy as well.”

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