Visit to Centre of Excellence – Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing (AMTEC)

We had a great start to our final day in Seattle, Mary Kaye Bredeson, the Executive Director for the Centre of Excellence, had not only organised a breakfast for us at AMTEC, but had made homemade sticky buns with pecan and caramel sauce!

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They were absolutely delicious and made even more delicious by the fact that Mary Kaye, was the first ever female law enforcement office in Snohomish County in 1978. Mary Kaye, we found out, is an amazing pioneer, not only in law enforcement but also in her role as Executive Director at AMTEC.  She has been leading the way in the development of aviation training becoming an excellent female role model (yet another inspirational person we met during our visit to Seattle).The AMTEC centre is one of ten centres of excellence in the state and is hosted at Everett Community College however, is a resource for all 34 state community colleges. As with all 10 state Centres of Excellence, funding relies heavily on outside support from state grants, federal grants and industry.

Workforce Development, Chief Executive Officer, Erin Monroe reinforced that “ Seattle is becoming people of engineers and people who make coffee “ and highlighted the range of activities workforce development engage in, in order to reduce  this scenario and provide greater opportunities to develop higher level skills .  She also outlined the range of initiatives to tackle unemployment rates and to increase the skills levels of NEETS in particular. Washington State appears again, to face similar scenario to Wales.  Success according to Erin, has been achieved through increased partnership working, improved career focussed education in schools, getting employers on board, working with colleges to develop training programmes and then going to the communities to deliver this training.

After a final goodbye and a very fun filled taxi trip cutesy of Andrew Cornish’s music selection, we ventured to our last visit: the Museum of Flight – a real treat to end our Seattle visit!

We not only learned about the educational programmes, the high school delivery but also we were able to fly a flight a simulated landing to Cardiff airport (oops, I did accidently land on our I CAT building!) . We also got to see some fantastic exhibits and walk on Concorde and Air Force One!

The Museum of Flight is 54 years old and hosts a range of exhibits including the Apollo 11 Rocket, first plane ever created, dark start drones, Boeing and the grey drone that saved Captain Phillips. We also learned about the Challenge learning Centre, a fantastic place to motivate young people and encourage them into aerospace and engineering.  A replica of a space ship control centre, is used to send students on space missions have sleep overs and cope with emergency scenarios, using their team work and problem solving skills. It emulates constructivist theory of education and shows how students develop skills through problems, projects and research.

Aerospace education Centre is an education hub in the museum and has programmes from 8th grade and above whereby, children develop safety skills and plan a flight! They obtain high school credits and some pilot skills as a result- a really exciting way to engage young people! Programmes developed with Boeing are also used to attract women, people of colour and young people from deprived areas into the industry.

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Finally we spoke to Riba Gill, Vice President of Education. She informed us of the unique high school provision developed next to the Museum of Flight illustrating her 10 year struggle to get employers and investment of 56 million to secure the development. She wanted to develop a school that had a strong technical and academic rigour with really tangible engagement with the aerospace industry and has succeeded! She wanted the all-important ‘soft skills’ to be taught and embedded in every class and learning built around project based research and development. Integral to this, are the ‘high stakes’, whereby learners have to present their research and problem solving ability to industry experts. Key features of the high school are that every student has a mentor and an internship (Previously, Boeing didn’t take interns but now takes 17 annually). The internship is an in-depth seven week process which students have to apply for.

Success is evident, with 425 learners per year from age 16 progressing onto programme and a graduate rate of 98%. In comparison to UTCs in England, the success of this programme seems to rely on the involvement of industry. Industry members are instrumental in curriculum development and form a strategic board and thus have an invested interest in the schools’ success. James Reddreck, one of the most eminent aerodynamicists in the world, contributed 3 million pounds to to have the school named after him, and as a result helped provide additional partners to ensure continued investment.

Wow, as you can read, a full on, informative and fun packed day illustrating that Engineering, manufacturing and aerospace are not only excellent and rewarding career choices but also fun, interesting and engaging subject matters.

Photo 4 The industry offers far more to female learners than females anticipate and people like Mary Kaye and Riba are inspirational role models that breakdown traditional stereotypes. On reflection, in Wales, we need to ensure we improve career guidance and increase opportunities to expose students/children from a young age to the exciting opportunities that exist within the engineering industry and the vast number of career opportunities it offers. We also need to focus on employing more enthusiastic teachers and role models who can engage and inspire and be responsive to employer needs.

Photo 3 I have also seen that project based learning and the development of industry skills appears to be an effective teaching tool that we need more of, and mutually beneficial partnerships between industry and education is paramount. The magic ingredient in all the cases seems to be that one to one relationship established between liked minded people! Many of the organisations we have visited suggested it has been the meetings of minds between individuals and a ‘can do attitude’ that is instrumental in transforming the development of technical skills.

So in Wales, we need to establish good personal relationships with employers, also, be fierce, tenacious and don’t give in!  We must aim for the moon and we might well reach the stars! Seattle has!




About Claire Roberts

Claire.roberts [a]
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