Business

September 23, 2013

Prison inmates learning aerospace work

Nicholas K. Geranios
Associated Press

Forget license plates. Some inmates at the Airway Heights Corrections Center are training for jobs in the state’s huge aerospace industry.

About a dozen inmates are enrolled in a program that will make them certified aerospace composite technicians. Their goal is a post-prison chance to land jobs at companies like Boeing and its suppliers.

ìThere is a strong shortage of people to be aerospace composite technicians,î said Chad Lewis, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections.

The idea is that former inmates who have good-paying jobs are much less likely to return to prison, he said. To be sure, the prison system still trains inmates in traditional inmate fields like upholstery and furniture-making.

But there was no good reason to ignore aerospace, Washington’s largest manufacturing sector, with jobs scattered across the state. ìWe wanted to teach offenders something relevant to the local job market,î Lewis said.

Taught by instructors from a local community college, the inmates must earn 49 college credits to be certified. They are in class six hours a day, five days a week, and the program takes a year to complete at the medium security prison in this suburb of Spokane. The classes are unique because they offer a combination of book learning and hands-on experience making composite materials. That combination makes abstract concepts easier for students to grasp and retain.

The first class of inmates will graduate in January.

It has been a positive experience for inmate Richard Syers of Spokane, who dropped out of school in the sixth grade but has been earning As and Bs in the new program, which includes rigorous courses like trigonometry.

Syers, 42, hopes to move to western Washington when he is released in 21/2 years, and continue training for a job in aerospace. ìEverything is composites now,î Syers, serving time for sex crimes, said.
David Murley, dean of prison education for Spokane Community College, said more than half the inmates didn’t even have a GED when they arrived in prison.

Murley said a survey of employers across the state found a dramatic shortage of workers in composite materials. He noted that Boeing’s new 787 is largely made of composites, which are defined as products made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties.

In addition to airplanes, composite materials are often used in boat hulls, swimming pool panels, car bodies, shower stalls, bathtubs and spacecraft.

ìComposites are everywhere,î Murley said. ìThere are tons of jobs out there.

The program aims to train inmates for jobs that start at $15 an hour and go up, Murley said. Murley acknowledged that some employers may not hire former inmates, but he believes many will.

Inmate Jeffrey Swenson, 34, from Lake Tapps, Wash., said he always loved science in school.

ìI’d like to be trained for a job in this area,î said Swenson, as he used a pair of electric scissors to cut material from a pattern.

Swenson, serving time for auto theft, noted he is not due for release until 2016, and wonders if employers will be willing to hire a felon. ìIt’s something I think about every day,î he said.

Mike Paris, educational administrator for the state Department of Corrections, said Airway Heights is one of five prisons in the state where the agency is combining classroom instruction with hands-on experience in better-paying professions. Inmates at the other prisons are being taught horticulture, building maintenance, baking as well as heating, ventilation and air conditioning skills.

The prison system must constantly adapt its training programs, as even traditional inmate jobs such as welding and auto mechanics have become more complex, he said.

ìWe’ve got to stay up to speed,î Paris said.

Paris estimated it cost about $2,000 per person to get inmates certified as aerospace technicians. But that is less than the cost of having a former inmate commit another crime, go through the criminal justice system and end up back in prison with a long sentence.

ìIt’s pretty clear this is the smart thing to do,î Paris said.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines March 23, 2015

News: Obama says more troops will stay in Afghanistan next year - President Obama March 24 formally abandoned his pledge to bring U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan down to 5,000 by the end of this year, saying the current force of about 10,000 will remain there into 2016.   Business: U.S. special ops to sole-source 2,000...
 
 

News Briefs March 25, 2015

Pentagon notifying U.S. troops named by alleged IS hackers The Pentagon said March 23 it is notifying 100 U.S. military members that their names and addresses were posted on the Internet by a group calling itself the Islamic State Hacking Division. The group said it was posting the information, including photos of the individuals, to...
 
 
Courtesy photograph

Lockheed Martin acquires high-speed wind tunnel, plans upgrades

Courtesy photograph A RATTLRS cruise-missile inlet undergoes testing at the High Speed Wind Tunnel at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Grand Prairie. Lockheed Martin recently purchased the facility and plans numerou...
 

 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Andrew McMurtrie

Off they go: Three more C-130Js delivered

Lockheed Martin photograph by Andrew McMurtrie March 19, a U.S. Air Force crew took delivery of and ferried an MC-130J Commando II Special Operations tanker aircraft that is assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command’s ...
 
 

Northrop to provide DIRCM for Canadian Chinook fleet

Northrop Grumman has been selected by the Royal Canadian Air Force to provide infrared missile protection on its fleet of CH-147F Chinooks. “Battle-tested in the harshest conditions and in use around the world, Northrop Grumman’s infrared countermeasure systems have been protecting warfighters for more than 50 years,” said Carl Smith, vice president, infrared countermeasures, ...
 
 

UTC Aerospace awarded contract for surface ship sonar domes

UTC Aerospace Systems has received a contract from the Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane, Indiana, to provide sonar domes for surface combat ships. The five-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract is valued at up to $39 million and covers deliveries through 2020 to the U.S. Navy and foreign military sales. In addition to the...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>