"Workforce Education at Green River was VERY instrumental in allowing me to go back to school, and I'm grateful for all the assistance I received and continue to receive." - Genie L, Green River Student

"Make sure you talk to Workforce Education...They can help in many ways to make things go smoothly and make sense." - Chris S, Green River Student

"Workforce Education...will embrace you and lend a helping hand with open hearts." Elsie Q, Green River Student

"Workforce Education has been there for me since day one!" - Jenny S, Green River student

Jun 24, 2013

Machine Maintenance with Pat Pritchard

Today's post features a Q and A with Pat "The Machine Doctor" Pritchard. Pat's an instructor in Green River's exciting new Machine Maintenance program. A former Boeing employee, he brings a wealth of industry experience to the college, and has a number of insightful comments to share about the program and the maintenance field in general.

Pat Pritchard
Hi Pat. Thanks for joining us on the blog. To start, can you tell us the story of how you became an instructor at Green River?

Pat: I worked as a mechanic in various industries, ship building, oil refineries, and chemical plants before I ended up in Aerospace with Boeing. Boeing was a fascinating place to work because it offered such great opportunities to learn and grow. I took some personal computing classes at Green River which really changed my career because I was quickly put to work on a variety of computer based machinery. Since computers are a part of more and more machinery everyday, I was very busy. I found  that I enjoyed passing on what I learned to others, and that caused me to move around a lot at Boeing. I eventually ended up as a full-time maintenance instructor at Boeing. I heard that Green River was entering the Maintenance Training arena, so I came down to see what type of program they had in mind. Once I talked with them, we realized I might be the right person to help them build their program. I wasn't looking for a new job, but the idea of starting a brand new program really intrigued me. It has been really hard work but it has also been an awful lot of fun.

Can you provide an overview of the Machine Maintenance program?

Pat: Our classes supply the basic skills and knowledge that are needed to understand and maintain machinery. The best way to think about modern maintenance workers is to think of them as machinery doctors. Just like doctors, we spend part of the time practicing preventative maintenance, and part of the time responding to unexpected problems. Our training program is much like medical school since we start by studying what machines are made of. It is quite different than most other maintenance programs because we do not specialize in any specific type of machinery. We operate on the idea that all machines are devices that use various types of energy.

Can you describe your approach to teaching Machine Maintenance?

Pat: Our class starts with the idea that any machine is simply a device that controls and uses various forms of energy. From the simplest application of mechanical energy on the end of a lever, to the most advanced CNC machine tool, they all use various types of energy to perform work. We study the most commonly used types of energy in class: hydraulic, pneumatic, and electrical, for example. Once you understand the energy in a machine, there is not much you can't figure out.

In your opinion, what type of student will be successful in the Machine Maintenance program?

Pat: Curiosity is very important. If you want to know how things work and enjoy solving problems, you will do very well in maintenance. If you're looking for a job in which you do the same thing every day, maintenance is probably not the place for you. In the maintenance world, you are given a task and it is up to you to design the method to solve that problem. We use math often but mostly for proportions and ratios. Reading is an essential skill because you will need to learn new machines and technologies throughout your career. One thing I didn't realize until I started teaching is how much creativity is used in solving the multitude of problems that confronts maintenance workers every day.

Finally, why is the maintenance field a good career choice?

Pat: Most people don't realize that 5 to 10% of the technical workforce is in the maintenance field. People also don't realize it is one of the highest paid jobs in the workforce. When Washington State government leaders asked the Aerospace community how they could help keep work in the Puget Sound, one of the things the Aerospace Industry said was that what they really needed was trained maintenance workers. The Machine Maintenance program at Green River is a direct result of that industry-wide need.
$$$ Tip! Three Workforce Education funding programs support Machine Maintenance training at Green River, including BFET, Worker Retraining, and WorkFirst.

Jun 18, 2013

Student Success Profile: Jayme Clark

Jayme Clark
Today's success profile features a Q and A with Jayme Clark. Jayme is a Workforce Education student who is wrapping up a Natural Resources degree, with an emphasis in Geographical Information Systems. Her future's looking bright—Jayme graduates this summer, and is going to work for the City of Seattle (where she's been interning since 2012) as an Invasive Species Technician. Check out her story below. 

Hi Jayme. Thanks for joining us on the blog. To start, can you tell us about the degree you're pursuing at Green River?

Jayme: I'm working toward an AAS degree in Natural Resources & GIS (Geographic Information Systems). It's an intensive 2 year degree of 125 credits in Natural Resources and GIS classes. In this program, I've spent a lot of time in the field practicing my technical skills. Those skills have put me in a great position for finding a job and getting started on my new career. I graduate this month—June 2013.

What lead you to pursue training in this field?

Jayme: I'm passionate about the outdoors and love being outside. I also wanted a career where I felt like I could make a difference. The Natural Resources program allowed me to work outside and make a positive impact on nature.

How has Workforce Education helped you towards completing your goals?

Jayme: Workforce Education has been great! I would not have been able to go back to school without them. My experience with them was very positive and I always felt like they cared about helping me. They explained my options for funding college, helped me fill out paperwork, and followed up to make sure I had what I needed to succeed.

You're nearing completion of your degree. Congrats! What are your future plans?

Jayme: I've been very lucky—I have a lot of career options. After one year in the Natural Resources program, I was hired as an Intern for the City of Seattle where I've been since June, 2012. After graduation, I will continue working for the city as an Invasive Species Technician in their municipal watersheds. I really want to say thank you to the staff at Green River, Workforce Education, and my instructors in the Natural Resources program!
$$$ Tip! All four Workforce Education funding programs—BFET, Opportunity Grant, Worker Retraining, and WorkFirst—support the Natural Resources-GIS option degree at Green River.

Jun 10, 2013

Shelan Aldridge / Neighborhood House

Please welcome to the blog esteemed community partner Shelan Alridge. Shelan is an Adult Education & Employment Manager at Neighborhood House, a non-profit organization in Washington State that has been fighting poverty and creating stronger communities since 1906.

Hi Shelan. Thanks for joining us on the blog. To start, can you give us an overview of your organization?

Shelan: Neighborhood House is a non-profit organization with a mission to help diverse communities of people with limited resources attain their goals for self-sufficiency, financial independence, health and community building. We offer everything from parent home visiting programs, to citizenship classes, to employment programs that help people find jobs.

Who is eligible to apply for services at Neighborhood House?

Shelan: The eligibility for different programs varies, but most services focus on individuals or families that have low or no income.

Are there any specific resources offered through Neighborhood House that you would like to spotlight at this time?

Shelan: Yes! Neighborhood House has employment services in South King County that I'd like to highlight. We're big into education and several of our employment programs support students in different ways while they are going to school / completing training. Some of our programs pay for GED testing fees, while others help connect students to community resources or jobs.

Oftentimes, we see students struggling to find jobs after they complete their training programs. Our skilled and dedicated employment specialists come alongside students to help them develop a targeted resume; train them how to highlight newly-learned skills in an interview; and assist with online job applications and job leads. We use a team approach and have a career developer who develops relationships with employers in their community. We often connect our job seekers to job openings with those employers and advocate on their behalf.

Employment specialists are also able to help students overcome other barriers they may be facing that make completing school or finding a job difficult. At times, it's a housing issue or eviction notice. Or it's the inability to get a job or get to school because of a transportation issue. Once the person qualifies and enrolls, some programs can offer limited support services, such as one time rental assistance, interview clothing, or a bus pass need for job search or vocational training.

If any of your students who are reading this are motivated to work and are interested in enrolling into one of our employment programs, feel free to send me an email. We're a community-based organization, so it doesn't cost anything to enroll. I'll be happy to connect them to one of our employment specialists who can do an assessment to see if they qualify.
Shelan Aldridge is an Adult Education & Employment Manager with Neighborhood House. She can be reached at shelana@nhwa.org. For more information about Neighborhood House, you can also visit nhwa.org.  

Jun 6, 2013

Updated Training Benefits Application

If you're currently receiving unemployment benefits in Washington State, and are interested in attending a local community / technical college to update your skills or to retrain for a new occupation, you'll definitely want to get your hands on a Training Benefits application. Why? Because you have to get permission to go to school from the Employment Security Department. Filling out a Training Benefits application is one way of doing just that.

We last discussed Training Benefits in an earlier post, wwwaaaaayyy back in 2010. Since the Employment Security Department  recently updated the application, now seems like a great time to review the subject.

First, let's define our terms. When a person fills out a Training Benefits application, (s)he is asking the Employment Security Department for two things: Training Benefits (TB) and Commissioner Approved Training (CAT). This is why the application is sometimes casually referred to as a TB/CAT application.

As defined by the Employment Security Department, Training Benefits are "extra weeks of [unemployment] benefits after regular unemployment benefits and any federally funded programs have run out." More weeks of unemployment, in other words, designed to kick in on the backend, after regular benefits and federal extensions have been exhausted.

Commissioner Approved Training is exactly what it sounds like: Approval for Training, from the Commissioner of the Employment Security Department.  Permission to go to school, in other words, as well as permission to suspend the job-search requirement that claimants typically adhere to.

The Training Benefits application, itself, is only nine pages long, but requires some work to complete because it asks for information about: your previous occupation; the degree or certificate program you intend to enroll in; future jobs you will be qualified to fill once you've finished the degree / certificate; as well as information about your current availability for work.

Have specific questions about Training Benefits or Commissioner Approved Training? Go to your local WorkSource employment center or call the Employment Security Department's Training Benefits hotline at 1-877-600-7701.