Serving Whitman County since 1877

Washington Manufacturing Week visited Gar-Pal

PALOUSE– The Association of Washington Business (AWB) which serves as Washington's state manufacturing association, went on the road Thursday, Oct. 6, for their sixth-annual Manufacturing week bus tour.

One of their stops was in Palouse at the Gar-Pal high school, Tuesday, Oct. 11. The bus tour stopped due to the school's new innovative automotive pre-apprenticeship technician program, which gives students a chance to earn industry certification while gaining on-the-job experience.

"We had a great opportunity to see their brand new youth apprenticeship program. It just started this fall," said AWB President, Kris Johnson, "it creates a number of pathways for students."

Students who are part of the program can earn career and technical education (CTE) credits while in high school. "One student had even started a job at Jess Ford," Johnson said, noting that this gives students the chance to apply what they learn in the classroom in a real lab experience.

In the program students are taught the basics of what tools are in the program, the methodology, and the systems. "It's very hands-on," Johnson said, "We saw two kids who were excited to do something in the hands-on application process."

The partnership for the program includes Garfield-Palouse High School, ITAC, Spokane Community College, Ford and the McGregor Company, which can end up employing students after they finish school. "We want to make sure local kids in small communities have opportunities," said Leslie Druffel, outreach coordinator for McGregor.

The AWB bus tour began Thursday, Oct. 6, through Friday, coinciding with Manufacturing Day, a nationwide event seeking to educate students, parents and the public about modern manufacturing. The tour resumed Monday Oct. 10, and ran through Thursday, Oct. 13. Stopping at nearly 20 manufacturers throughout the state.

The tour highlighted the importance of manufacturing jobs in a state where 265,000 people work in the sector, and called attention to the state's goal of doubling the number of manufacturing jobs over 10 years.

"If we're going to double manufacturing in Washington, we must invest in our young people to ensure we have a trained and educated workforce to fill the new positions," Johnson said." We must protect Washington's affordable, reliable and renewable energy-which has been one of the state's core competitive advantages. We need sensible regulatory policies that enable manufacturers to grow. And we need a tax policy that allows us to compete in a global marketplace. The future of manufacturing in Washington is bright if we make smart policy choices now."

Manufacturers employ nearly 3,000 people in Whitman County with an annual wage of more than $78,000. Johnson is excited that Gar-Pal is giving students opportunities with this program, as well as giving them the ability to go onto Spokane Community College, "You can get the credential right there, and then walk to Jess Ford and earn a great wage," he said.

Manufacturing employs 265,000 people or approximately 8 percent of the statewide workforce in Washington.

AWB will announce the finalists for the 2022 Manufacturing Excellence Awards Nov. 17 at AWB's Evening of Excellence Gala at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center.


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