Amy Anderson, government affairs director of the Association of Washington Businesses, shows lawmakers the association’s review of 70 Washington manufacturers at the hearing for HB 2177 on Monday, Jan. 29. She said every industry expressed a need for skilled workers. Screenshot courtesy of TVW

Amy Anderson, government affairs director of the Association of Washington Businesses, shows lawmakers the association’s review of 70 Washington manufacturers at the hearing for HB 2177 on Monday, Jan. 29. She said every industry expressed a need for skilled workers. Screenshot courtesy of TVW

Lawmaker pitches vocational scholarships at rural community colleges

The bill would provide assistance for residents that make less than 70 percent of the state median income.

A proposed program could provide grants for community college students to learn trades in high demand in rural areas.

All counties in the state would qualify except for King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Watcom, Thurston, Clark, Benton, and Spokane counties.

Lisa Perry, representing Sierra Pacific Industries, a timber company in Skagit and Lewis counties, said at the bill’s hearing that at least one line in the company is not operating because of the lack of skilled workers. She said schools don’t encourage students to study fields like electric engineering, mechanics, or other trade fields. This bill, she said, would allow local industries to work with community colleges in their area to identify industry needs.

“We need this visibility,” Perry said. “We are short on workers.”

“We talk a lot about rural economy and creating jobs in rural Washington,” Representative Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, prime sponsor of HB 2177 said at a public hearing last month. “It’s really become clear that there are good paying, family wage jobs that are available right now in rural Washington, but there are not trained workers to take those jobs.”

The proposed grant would cover tuition and fees for up to 45 credits or one year of full-time study starting no later than the Autumn quarter of the 2019-20 academic year. To be eligible, an applicant must be a resident of a rural county, enrolled in a community college program in a high demand field, have a family income that is less than 70 percent of the state median, and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the Washington Application for State Financial Aid.

The State board of education has not yet identified specific fields that qualify as high demand areas, but must do so by January of 2019.

“We have a gap and this bill would provide the resources we need to fill that gap,” Erin Frasier, policy director for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges said.

Representative Chapman pointed to the nursing, carpentry, and welding industries as examples of high demand fields.

Amy Anderson, government affairs director of the Association of Washington Businesses, said that there will be almost three-quarters of a million jobs opening in the state within the next five years and a majority of those jobs will require a post-secondary credential of some kind. She said while graduation rates rise, only about 31 percent of high school graduates obtain a post secondary credential or degree.

The Association of Washington Businesses toured 70 manufacturers in October, Anderson said. They found that every business expressed a need for a skilled workforce. Many were unable to expand or forced to shut down manufacturing lines due to the lack of a skilled workforce.

“The need is even more acute in our rural areas in the state,” Anderson said. “The benefit would far outweigh the expenditures to the state.”

According to the bill’s fiscal note, the program would cost $259,000 per year to implement the program. The state would also match any private donations made up to $50 million per year.

The bill was heard in the House Appropriations Committee on Monday, Jan. 29. Lawmakers voted to pass the bill out of the Appropriations Committee to the Rules Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 6, narrowly missing its deadline. The Rules Committee will decide if the bill gets a vote on the House floor.

This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Northwest

King County and Public Health have turned a former Econo Lodge motel into an emergency isolation/quarantine facility on Central Avenue in Kent. File photo
King County reports 27 coronavirus cases in homeless shelters

County has provided 60 motel vouchers so far for quarantining homeless individuals.

King County regional trails closed except for essential use

Green River, Interurban trails part of system

Renton business owner supports local farmers, brewers during pandemic

The Brewmaster’s Foundation weekly Community Supported Agriculture box includes fresh produce from local farms and beers from Washington breweries.

Inslee, nonprofits launch fund for state’s food banks as supply levels drop

Demand expected to double this week to 1.6 million people in need

First WA state prisoner tests positive for COVID-19

The man is the first person in Washington to contract the disease while in a state prison.

Sewing up solutions: South King firefighter designs prototype for protective gown shortage

Despite the department’s success with a one-man team, South King Fire is looking for the community’s help to sew gowns for first responders.

Students will not return to classrooms this school year

Monday’s decision applies to all schools — public, private and charter.

Most Read