Technical training grant to benefit central Washington

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WENATCHEE — North central Washington, including Grant and Adams counties, will receive a grant to improve science and technology education and training. The $855,000 grant is part of the statewide “Career Connect Washington” initiative.

The grant “has two main purposes,” said Aaron Parrott of the North Central Washington Workforce Development Council. Some training programs will be aimed at young people, while other training and apprentice programs will be targeted at adults. All classes will focus on careers in technical fields, including manufacturing, computer maintenance and medicine.

Among the partners for the grant are Big Bend Community College and the Grant County PUD.

Since the grant was just awarded, there’s no timeline yet for implementation, Parrott said.

The youth program will focus on training for low-income people, or those who have other obstacles in accessing job training. It’s also for youths who dropped out of school or who are trying to resume their education, Parrott said.

One of the goals of the adult program is to “expand or create apprenticeship programs that will serve STEM-related fields,” different ones in different counties, Parrot said. In Grant and Adams counties, the focus will be on apprenticeships in manufacturing. “Apprenticeship is one route to a sustainable career,” he said.

The central Washington council will be working with the Aerospace Joint Apprentice Commission, which has an existing “Industrial Manufacturing Technician” program in Pierce County. The skills students learn can be transferred to other manufacturing jobs, Parrott said. “It’s not aerospace-specific.”

The program includes 30 hours of classroom instruction, which will be offered through BBCC, said Heidi Summers, director of BBCC’s Transforming STEM Pathways program.

The program in Chelan and Douglas counties will focus on computer maintenance and information systems, he said, starting with the Wenatchee School District. Over time, the plan is to expand it to other school districts in Douglas and Chelan counties.

In Okanogan County, the focus will be on dental assistants, working with Okanogan County Family Health Centers. That was one of the jobs identified when looking for careers that are needed in Okanogan County, he said.

Over time, program operators have “plans, or at least ideas,” of expanding the information technology maintenance and dental assistant programs to other counties in the region, he said. Most manufacturing is concentrated in Grant and Adams counties, so the manufacturing apprenticeships will be focused there, he said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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