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 January 23, 2015

News: Two Marines identified in deadly California helo crash - Two Marine Corps officers killed when their helicopter crashed during a training exercise in the Southern California desert were remembered Jan. 25 as talented pilots. Greek F-16 crashes in Spain during NATO exercise - Ten people died Jan. 26 after a Greek air force F-16 jet crashed...
 
 

News Briefs January 26, 2015

Navy wants to increase use of sonar-emitting buoys The U.S. Navy is seeking permits to expand sonar and other training exercises off the Pacific Coast, a proposal raising concerns from animal advocates who say that more sonar-emitting buoys would harm whales. The Navy now wants to deploy up to 720 sonobuoys about 12 miles off...
 
 
Air National Guard photograph by SSgt. Annie Edwards

ANG conducts air refueling training with NATO allies in Germany

Air National Guard photograph by SSgt. Annie Edwards A NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft approaches a Utah Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker for air refueling during a training flight over Germany on Jan. 13, 2015. Nearly 30 airme...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Armando A. Schwier-Morales

Ramstein Airmen train with French air force

Air Force photograph by SrA. Armando A. Schwier-Morales Two U.S. Air Force pilots and a French air force navigator discuss the route to the drop zone during a simulated low-level drop Jan. 21, 2015, at Orleans – Bricy Air...
 
 

Marines receive first F-35C Lightning II carrier variant

The first F-35C Lightning II, carrier variant, for the U.S. Marine Corps touched-down on the flight line at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 13, from the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas, to begin training in support of carrier-based operations. U.S. Marine Lt. Col. J.T. Ryan, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 501 detachment commander...
 
 

VA announces single regional framework under MyVA initiative

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Jan. 26 that it is taking the first steps under the MyVA initiative to realign its many organizational maps into one map with five regions to better serve Veterans. The new regions under the MyVA alignment will allow VA to begin the process of integrating disparate organizational boundaries into...
 




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>