High school aerospace program produces Boeing-ready grads in two years

Claire Bryan:

Next to an atrium filled with historic airplanes at the Museum of Flight, Boeing celebrated hiring more than a thousand Washington high school graduates from the Core Plus Aerospace program on Tuesday morning.

The thousandth graduate milestone comes at a time when demand for Boeing’s jetliners is highafter the pandemic, said Scott Stocker, vice president of manufacturing and safety for Boeing commercial airplanes, who spoke at the event. 

And across the state, Boeing and other companies are hungry for new employees as the baby-boom generation leaves the workforce, said state Superintendent Chris Reykdal. 

The two-year program teaches high schoolers how to build airplanes. For eight years, it’s been training students on their high school campus or at a nearby skills center how to drill, counter sink, install rivets, read blueprints, do precision measurements and more.

These jobs pay a good wage — the first thousand students are collectively making about $100 million in salary and benefits annually, said Reykdal. That works out to an average of $100,000 per graduate.

“It turns out we still have to build stuff,” said Reykdal, who came up from Olympia for the event. “We still have to create, we still have to fabricate and connect. We’re still living in a physical world. … It doesn’t fly without assembly, it doesn’t roll without assembly.”

The program gets state support. The Washington Legislature passed a law in 2015 that budgets funds annually for schools to launch and expand Core Plus programs. School districts can apply for money for equipment for the classes and to train teachers on the Core Plus Aerospace curriculum.