Educating students for career opportunities in rapidly evolving manufacturing and maritime industries

Crosscut continues its series on STEM education with a look at how Washington schools are preparing students for careers in the manufacturing and maritime industries. (We wrote about the series, sponsored by Alaska Airlines, previously.)

Education correspondent Jaclyn Zubrzycki writes of a high school student, Jonathan  Ly, who studies aerospace engineering at Rainier Beach High School and participates in an internship at the Port of Seattle. 

The course Ly took was developed by the state education department and local industries and is known as Core Plus. It’s a 21st century variation on vocational education, designed to prepare students in public high schools for careers in the trades by training them in science, technology, engineering and math, aka STEM.

As Port and other business leaders worry about an ongoing wave of retirement among baby boomers, they’re increasingly focusing on preparing students for a set of jobs they say require more mathematical and technical skills than ever before.

Dave Gering, head of the Manufacturing Industrial Council, tells Zubrzycki that the program helps fill the skills gap in the workforce. But there are challenges to meeting the demand.

Gering said that the program could prepare students for college or to be hired by local employers; he said that Boeing had hired 160 Core Plus students right out of high school.

But as the program is slated to grow, finding teachers who are familiar with industry standards and ready to connect them with academic content can be a challenge. “Without teacher training, none of this happens,” Gering said.

Read the whole thing.

The article nicely complements the cover story, Building a Better Washington, in the Summer edition of Washington Business, the quarterly magazine published by the Association of Washington Business.

AWB staff writer Bobbi Cussins, advises readers to

Forget everything you think you know about manufacturing. The sector has changed dramatically in the last two decades, becoming cleaner, greener and more high-tech as the world around it has changed.

And as technology transforms manufacturing, the need for STEM-trained workers becomes more intense.

“Getting kids excited about hands-on fields, building things and developing a passion for inventing and possibly discovering a potential career in manufacturing should start early on,” [AWB government affairs director Amy] Anderson said. “We’re seeing programs like Spokane Valley Tech, Aviation High School in Tukwila and others cropping up, but as the industry changes, this ‘beyond-the-book’ education must be expanded to give students, the next generation of Washington workers, an understanding that manufacturing is a worthwhile career choice.”

The industry pays well, which should serve as another attraction for students to take a look at the sector, Anderson added.

We first wrote about the opportunities in our foundation report. Our Achieve priority recommends that state policy should

Drive interest and performance in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) among K-12 students and increase access to postsecondary STEM programs.

The AWB article underscores the importance of recognizing the changes that are taking place within manufacturing, particularly the growing use of precision technology. Washington students must have the education and training required to take advantage of the career opportunities industry can provide them. 

It’s encouraging to see the strides that are now being made. Congratulations to the industry and education leaders who are coming together to create these innovative programs.