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.


 
 

 

President proclaims Memorial Day as ‘Day of Prayer’

President Barack Obama May 22 saluted the service and sacrifices of America’s military members–past and present–and proclaimed Memorial Day, May 25, 2015, “as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11 a.m. of that day as a time during which people may unite in prayer....
 
 

Air Force leaders’ Memorial Day message

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III send the following Memorial Day message to the Airmen of the Air Force and their families: To the Airmen of the United States Air Force and their Families: On Memorial Day, Americans pause in solemn remembrance...
 
 

Headlines May 22, 2015

News: Second Marine killed in Hawaii Osprey crash identified - Marine Corps officials have identified the second Marine to die as a result of the May 17 MV-22B Osprey crash as Lance Cpl. Matthew J. Determan of Maricopa, Ariz.   Business: Israel defense exports plunge to seven-year low - Israeli defense sales last year plunged to their...
 

 

News Briefs May 22, 2015

Ukrainian officer hit with third charge in Russia A third charge has been filed against a Ukrainian military officer who has been behind bars in Moscow for nearly a year over the deaths of two Russian journalists in Ukraine. Nadezhda Savchenko, who worked as a spotter for Ukrainian troops fighting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine,...
 
 
Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez

Smart-mortar will help Soldiers more effectively hit targets

Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez Nick Baldwin and Evan Young, researchers with the Armament Research Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal, Pennsylvania, discuss the 120mm Guided Enhanced Fragmentation Mortar ...
 
 

Air Force assigns new chief scientist

The Air Force announced the service’s new chief scientist to serve as a science and technology adviser to the secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff of the Air Force, May 21. Dr. Greg Zacharias will be the 35th chief scientist and is ready to “dive in” to his new role. “I...
 




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>