Student Story: Kanwal A., Demri L, Kristina M., Abigail N.

 
by Catherine Sweeney, Creative Circle
July 9, 2015
 

Seattle’s huge aerospace industry is often an overlooked career opportunity for women. Kanwal, Demri, Kristina, and Abigail are ready to change that trend. 

All four local high school students are participants in Seattle Goodwill’s Youth Aerospace Program, based at the organization’s Marysville Job Training and Education Center. Established in 2013, the program helps young people in the Everett-Marysville area prepare for college and aerospace careers, reaching more than 60 students to date.

“Women hold just one out of four jobs in aerospace in Washington, and those employed in the field make double the average wage for women,” says Marysville Job Training and Education Center Manager Tania Siler. “With 50 percent of the state’s aerospace workers eligible for retirement within the decade, there will be tremendous opportunities for our program graduates.”

“The numbers of men in the industry don’t intimidate me,” says Demri, who plans to pursue work as an aerospace machinist. “I was already confident in a number of ways, but this program showed me how to be even better.”

The Youth Aerospace Program is no small commitment, requiring a competitive application process and 10-15 hours of class time every month during senior year. After high school graduation, students participate in up to four quarters of advanced aerospace manufacturing classes at Everett Community College, with career and college navigation support from Goodwill’s staff, and some financial assistance as well. Besides connecting students to the aerospace industry, the program emphasizes “soft skills,” including networking, punctuality, goal-setting and financial literacy.

Abigail, who plans on becoming an aircraft mechanic, describes the program as “one of the best decisions I ever made.” She developed new networking skills. “I’ve met aerospace professionals, Seattle Goodwill’s president and leaders and government officials. Now I know how to ask questions and put myself out there.”

“I’ve learned how to work better with others,” Kristina says. Her favorite team project involved creating a mock biofuels company, then presenting to an audience of classmates and aerospace professionals.

The program’s field trips to local aerospace companies piqued Kanwal’s interest. “We met Boeing engineers and heard about what made them successful,” she recalls. “For me, it was important advice for the future.”

As they celebrate high school graduation, these four women can look forward to launching their aerospace careers—and putting some sharp skills to work, together with a new group of friends.


 

Catherine Sweeney, APR is a professional writer and communicator affiliated with Creative Circle. She dedicates her Goodwill blog-writing in memory of her mom, an avid thrift-shopper and advocate for social change. 

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