Aerospace Curriculum Alignment Team (ACAT)
The aerospace industry represents a powerful economic force both throughout Washington state and nationally. According to Nicole Lamb, Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services, “The U.S. aerospace and defense industry is a strategic contributor to the economy. . . ."
Nationally the industry employed some 11.7 million American workers in July 2010 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the total value of aerospace shipments for 2009 was nearly $189 billion. Andrew Casey reports (State Export Behavior and Policy, 2008) that:
- Washington is the 4th largest exporting state in the US (5.1% of total)
- Aerospace accounts for 26.3% of manufacturing shipments in the state
As a consequence of the need to support and sustain a vital and vibrant aerospace industry in Washington state, a growing consortium of colleges, training centers and industry representatives began meeting periodically in June 2010 under the auspices of the Center of Excellence for Aerospace.
The essential purpose of the group was to provide an ongoing forum for clarifying industry needs and matching them against college and/or training center capabilities and programs. As the collaboration effort between members of this group grew it became known as ACAT - Aerospace Curriculum Alignment Team; the consortium continued throughout the summer and early fall of 2010, several key observations began to emerge as summarized below:
- Industry (Boeing in particular) is projecting a need for skilled workers in the foreseeable future to replace a growing number of retirement eligible employees as well as respond to increased production demands.
- The pool of skilled applicants available locally appears to be limited.
- Communication and collaboration between industry and the CTCs has been limited and localized. Individual industry representatives may participate on a particular college advisory committee, but the trends emerging do not routinely roll-up into a higher or more regional level for review and consideration.
- CTC professional-technical academic and training programs are often geared to the known needs of local employers, funded based on the stated needs of these employers and found to be of interest to potential students as a result of perceived employment opportunities and/or transfer options linked with higher level academic institutions.
- Transparency of educational and employment needs must be more effectively communicated between industry and the CTCs across the state if the demand for skilled employees is to be met.
- Industry must view this as a regional effort and in partnership with the CTCs examine the opportunities and options available for helping to develop programs of specific interest as well as work to facilitate the actual application and employment process.
The Center of Excellence for Aerospace is uniquely suited to facilitate the ongoing discussion with ACAT and strengthen the collaboration between the CTC system and industry.