An Update on Our Year at COE for Aerospace & Advanced Manufacturing

A Note from the Executive Director

First and foremost, everyone at the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing send wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a healthy 2021!

This year has been quite different than what we had envisioned for 2020. Back in September 2019, our economy was great, we were working to support the NMA here in Washington State, seeing an upturn in enrollments at our community and technical colleges, and focused on recruiting young people into fantastic job opportunities in aerospace and advanced manufacturing. There was shortage of pilots across the US, we needed over 245,000 Aviation Maintenance Technicians, and we were exploring new possibilities with a focus on recruiting young girls and women into careers in aviation and advanced manufacturing. Collaborating with multiple organizations such as Women in Manufacturing, Influential Women in Manufacturing, and Women in Aerospace, on possible grant prospects that would provide young women job shadowing, mentoring opportunities, and paid internships.

Then March 2020 hit! Our new topics of conversation included phrases and words such as these; COVID-19, “Pandemic,” “We are stronger Together,” “Pivot,” “Unprecedented Times,” “We are in this Together,” and my favorite, “The New Normal!”

Many of us have found “silver linings” to this pandemic, and I can honestly tell you that I have learned to appreciate so much more. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this virus and all the businesses that are struggling. So, how do we move forward in “the new normal”?

I am extremely proud of my staff for their dedication and flexibility. Through working remotely, we have learned to adapt and increased our productivity. I can say the same for our Community and Technical College system. When we were ordered to “shelter in place” our College Presidents, staff at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), college faculty, and college administrators, all rose to the occasion. Right away, we all knew that we needed to start moving our in-person classes to an online format. Back in April and May of this year, we did not know how long the pandemic would last. But we remained hopeful that we would be back in the classroom by summer or at the very least, fall quarter. Little did we know, we will probably continue to be working and teaching remotely in Washington State until the end of June. Our hybrid model allows students to attend labs on campus with strict safety protocols that adhere to social distancing.

Through funding provided by State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, the Center of Excellence was able to provide unlimited free online licenses to each student enrolled in a Mechatronics, Robotics, Automation, and Industrial Maintenance. We are honored to partner with AMTEC, Kentucky and the Owensboro Community College to make the AMTEC, Kentucky, curriculum compatible with the state’s Canvas platform. This curriculum was designed by Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) across the country to create the needed materials for a robust mechatronics online curriculum. AMTEC, as described on their website, “is a collaboration of community and technical colleges and industry partners who seek to better prepare highly skilled technicians and manufacturing engineers for work in advanced manufacturing and technology.”  A shout out to Steve Gance, Carolyn McKinnon, who are with SBCTC, and Jason Simon, AMTEC, Kentucky for their help in making this happen for the many community colleges that are using all or some of the online modules.

COE for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing also provided our college faculty with a membership to American Technical Education Association (ATEA). This membership allowed our faculty to attend weekly “Best Practice Calls” from July – December 2020 that covered everything from “The Value of Apprenticeships to Engage Employers with Students: a look at New Jersey and Tennessee,” “Prior Learning Assessment, a look at Maine College of Healthcare Professions, Lewiston, Maine and Wallace State College, Hanceville” along with, “Modeling Best Practices for Distance Learning,” provided by Dassault Systemes. These are just a few of the many weekly seminars that included Welding, Medical, Diesel and Automotive, and Skills USA Career Essentials. These were very well attended and received raving reviews, and I encourage you to visit this site

These opportunities and resources are just a few highlights and silver linings our Center of Excellence has been able to provide in these “unprecedented times.”  Further, we are already laying the groundwork for further inclusion of space exploration and travel, defense systems, and unmanned and autonomous systems. With a diverse set of available programs that mirror industry’s growth, the Center of Excellence for Aerospace & Advanced Manufacturing continues to stay ahead of our State’s economic future.

We encourage you all to look back on this year, look for the positives, and let us hope that 2021 will provide us a bright New Year, and a warm farewell to the old. We wish you all good health, wealth, and happiness.