Displaced Boeing employees seeking job training may find new value in old skills

Lawmakers say the future of aviation and aerospace in Western Washington may no longer belong only to companies like Boeing. Many of the highly specialized skills can also apply to industries that haven’t been hit as hard as others, including at companies that build drones, space rockets and even medical devices.

A North Sound training program originally meant to fast-track workers needed to build aircraft may already be grooming employees for the new economy.

The Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center in Everett teaches the skills needed that once helped people land good jobs building Boeing’s biggest airplanes.

“When I came here the first time in class I had no idea how to start these things,” said student Dhan Basnet.

Basnet says he loves the program but worries future employment at Boeing is now suddenly even less likely as hundreds working for the Dreamliner production line may soon be unemployed.

“Everybody is worried right now,” he said.

Born about ten years ago, the WATR Center would prep new workers for high precision jobs in only about 12 weeks. The center’s director says employees laid off at Boeing could return for new training.

“They may have some of the basics, but they may want to come to us and take the tooling class,” said Larry Cluphf.

In the beginning the majority of those who completed training soon found work on Boeing’s factory floor. Today dozens of aerospace suppliers across the state in sometimes unrelated industry sectors find they need workers who know the skills taught at the center, said Cluphf..

“Medical devices, marine time, automotive,” he said. “All the skills at WATR are transferrable to those fields.”

“We should have a Boeing *and* strategy for the Pacific Northwest,” Congressman Rick Larsen told Q13 News.

Larsen said he would fight to bring Dreamliner jobs back to Everett when the pandemic subsided and added there is also room for other industries to create new jobs.

“Using airspace like commercial space or drones and encouraging that space of the ecosystem because the future of aerospace and aviation isn’t’ just in airplanes,” he said.

Basnet says he understands job prospects will be tight for now but he is confident the skills he learned at WATR could mean finding work beyond Boeing.