About 50 Edmonds College students gathered around the ground floor of the Hazel Miller Hall during Manufacturing Week on campus on Wednesday, Oct. 4.
Representatives from several engineering and manufacturing companies, such as Boeing and Crane Aerospace & Electronics, shared what job offers they have for graduates and how much they would be making.
“You could be making six figures before you’re 27,” one of the Boeing representatives said to three prospective students.
Manufacturing Week brings awareness and engagement to Edmonds College students and nearby communities, an attempt to inspire the next generation of workers, from shipbuilding and plane welding to creating smarter robots and improving logistics in the military.
For some students, they want to leverage their manufacturing knowledge and skills to the healthcare profession.
Hawa Nyaboga is a freshman student at Edmonds College majoring in manufacturing in the Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Engineering Technology (AMMET) department. After 10 years working as a dentist in Nairobi, Kenya, she decided to make a career change in 2020.
“When I came here [U.S.], everyone was telling me to do nursing,” she said, followed by a long sigh. “When COVID hit, I was involved in manufacturing, sanitizing, back home in Kenya. That sparked my interest in manufacturing.”
She said that there are a lot of manufacturing needs in the dental profession: fillings, implants and materials that composite the technology needed to make surgical tools and imaging devices.
As of August 2023, nearly 13 million people in the U.S. are employed in the manufacturing industry, compared to about 11.5 million at the beginning of the pandemic when American manufacturers cut about 1.33 million jobs from February to April 2020. Although the recent number of manufacturing workers just peaked above pre-pandemic levels, it is nowhere near the 16-17 million workers employed before 9/11.
In the Greater Seattle Area, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported a 4.8% increase in manufacturing employment compared to August 2022. Even so, Edmonds College had experienced a drop of enrollment in the last few years.
“We had 12 AMMET students start in our first cohort that started last fall; five in the second cohort that just started [this year],” said Program Outreach, Recruitment and Operations Manager Su Nelson. “Note that for our first cohort, we were drawing from 15 years worth of graduates, so it is not too surprising that this year was less as we reach out to broader audiences. We are gaining some traction with this new program, however, and we have several students currently in the pipeline for the Fall ’24 or Fall ’25 AMMET cohort.”
Although the engineering and manufacturing departments have not fully recovered from the low enrollment rate, Nelson added that the college’s Manufacturing Basics class has twice the enrollment compared to last fall, partly because of Boeing’s Pre-Employment Training qualification and new students on campus.
“This is a good sign, even if only 75% continue on into a two-year degree or more,” Nelson said. “There is still more demand from employers. One hiring manager from Crane said, ‘yes, we need more technicians today!’ and she is not alone. Most technician jobs do require a two-year degree or two years (or more) of specific experience.”
Nelson said that a Bachelor of Applied Science program should have industry participation and input if the college were to come up with courses and training that are relevant to job demands.
“I network on a regular basis and follow many manufacturing companies online to try and keep abreast of trends,” she said. “Every advisory meeting we have, there is a discussion about what’s on the horizon, what’s trending now, etc. I also try to keep in touch with our alumni to hear what they do with the education and training they received here at Edmonds.”
Meanwhile, Nyagoba said she’s eager to see where the AMMET program will take her and how she can serve her previous profession.
“Today I’m seeing a lot of opportunities here in Edmonds,” Nyagoba said. “I am hoping to come up with something that can improve the dental [profession]. Because I have a lot of dental experience in crowns, implants and fillings, I believe that if I could get something that would improve fillings and root canals — especially root canals — something more instant, that would be nice.”
— Story and photos by Nick Ng