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.

[flipp]

More in Northwest

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and Page Carson Foster. Photo credit Washington State Legislative Support Services
Carson Foster serves as page in Washington State House

The following was submitted to the Reporter: Carson Foster, a student at… Continue reading

Jim Pitts stands on walkway overlooking filtration chambers at the King County South Treatment Plant in Renton. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Human waste: Unlikely climate change hero?

King County treatment plant joins effort to counteract effects of carbon dioxide.

Washington State Capitol Building. Photo by Emma Epperly/WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Legislation targets rape kit backlog

WA has about 10,000 untested kits; new law would reduce testing time to 45 days

DNA strikes again: Edmonds man, 77, arrested in 1972 killing

Detectives searched for a Mill Creek killer for 47 years. Genealogy and genetics led to a breakthrough.

Mountains to Sound Greenway designated as a National Heritage Area

1.5-million-acre landscape stretches from Ellensburg to Seattle

Would rent control work in Washington?

Oregon’s new law could lay the blueprint for other states

Federal Way resident competes for top 20 spot on ‘American Idol’

Todd Beamer senior Myra Tran previously won “The X-Factor Vietnam” in 2016.

File photo
Law enforcement oversight office seeks subpoena power

Organization has been unable to investigate King County Sheriff’s Office.

Photo by Kayse Angel
What’s next for the I-405 master plan?

New express toll lanes from Renton to Bellevue are coming soon.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Natural Resources/Kari Greer
Western Washington faces elevated wildfire risk in 2019

Humans cause majority of fires in state

Courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County approves bargaining agreement with 60 unions

Employees will receive wage increases and $500 bonus.

Call for peace, unity, understanding

City, county and state leaders show support of Islam community in wake of massacre at New Zealand mosques