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Aerospace college programs looking for veteran students

Puget Sound schools partner to offer training for vets

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The U.S. Department of Labor recently funded a grant program called Air Washington. It is a consortium of 11 Washington state community and technical colleges that will be training 2,600 aerospace workers for careers centralized around aviation and other related fields by fall 2014.

"There are multiple programs being offered that target veterans," said Patrick O'Halloran, the veteran transition coordinator for the Air Washington program. "Courses are offered in avionics electronics, composites, aircraft assembly, advanced manufacturing and FAA airframe and power-plant mechanic certification."

Participating colleges include Spokane Community College, Olympic College and Clover Park Technical College, among nine others across the Puget Sound area.

"Veterans have priority for these opportunities," said Thomas Curran, Clover Park Technical College's aerospace grant coordinator, "and employment rates for graduates are high, especially with Boeing. Also, skills learned are transferable to a huge number of industries such as sporting goods, medical applications, automotive, prosthetics, airport and harbor-related job and manufacturing."

No prior experience is necessary to enroll in classes. Also, work and life experience will be considered, and depending on skill set, level of experience, placement testing and college credit may be applicable.

"Manufacturing is in high demand," O'Halloran said. "Employers are seeking reliable people who are team players, who interact well with others and who show commitment - all skills veterans possess in quantities and are easily transferable."

Classes begin this summer at Clover Park and will be offered quarterly.

"Courses run on a non-stop flow like a conveyer belt," said Curran, "so veterans can take advantage of offerings at multiple locations."

The composite technician course is two quarters or six months long, and the aerospace maintenance technology course is eight quarters. Some electronics courses are available online and other courses require no placement test for admission. There are also work force development counselors that can assists veterans in finding the right program, classes and career paths.

"We work with perspective and current students from beginning to end," said Stephanie Thompson, Air Washington's grant manager. "We'll help you understand resources on and off-campus, and provide access to job shadowing, internships and help you connect with employers."

"There is an unprecedented demand for skilled labor in this market," Curran added. "Veterans should take advantage of it because it'll mean more job choices. Even if you don't work in the industry, your skills are transferable, and you will find work."

O'Halloran agrees.

"Don't wait until you're separated from service to figure out what's next," he said. "Explore your options early and consider certification while on active-duty."

For more information on Air Washington and program details, visit or call O'Halloran at Spokane College (509) 533-7117, Curran at Clover Park Technical College (253) 589-6095 or Stephanie Thompson at Olympic College (360) 475-7839.

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