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Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert, left, and Snohomish County Council member Nate Nehring discuss manufacturing jobs in the county at a recent Issues that Matter forum held by the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation on May 21.

 

Local officials discussed efforts to improve the supply of manufacturing workers and attract industrial jobs to the area at a recent Issues that Matter presentation on May 21.

The series is hosted by the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation and is meant to provide forums to talk about topics that are important to the community.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring hosted the discussion between Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert, Snohomish County Council member Nate Nehring and Herman Calzadillas, employment solutions manager for Everett Community College.

Employment is one of the biggest concerns for many locals, said Jon Nehring.

“Nothing has been worked on more than creating family wage jobs here in Snohomish County,” he said.

Local officials hope to have more jobs that pay a family wage.

“We have about 161,000 people in Snohomish County who live 200 percent below the poverty level. That means they’re making less than $25,000 a year,” said Tolbert. “When you start to add kids to that it becomes even worse."

To be able to meet your basic needs with no savings requires a job of about $14.06 per hour, said Tolbert.

Having more jobs closer to Arlington and Marysville also means less commuting.

“In another career I actually commuted from Marysville to west Seattle,” said Jon Nehring, and that travel took him away from his family and caused wear and tear on his vehicle.

Tolbert said that jobs closer to town would turn into more time for family and community.

“Then they are there participating in family life, because I think that is really important for our future,” she said. “Particularly as we face some of the social issues that we’ve been seeing over the last five years."

Some attendees worried that manufacturing job wages were not high enough to support community members either, especially those that claim $15 to $20 per hour is a “family wage.”

“I don’t think anybody views $14.06 or $18 as a family wage job, the kinds of jobs we’re looking to attract are the $70,000 a year type jobs,” said Jon Nehring.

“With many of the aerospace jobs in Arlington, the starting wage is probably $12.50 an hour, but within six years you’re at $30 per hour and that’s a pretty fair progression,” said Tolbert.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the average wage of a manufacturing worker in April 2019 was $22.04 per hour.

The primary strategy discussed at the forum for bringing those manufacturing jobs to the county was by providing a more trained workforce to make the area more attractive for businesses.

Calzadillas said businesses are asking for workers who are ready to start at the job immediately.

“On a state level, what we’re seeing is that Washington Roundtable estimates that there are 740,000 jobs out there being created by 2021, and only 40 percent of our graduates have the degrees to fill those jobs,” he said.

“If you look at that stat for students of color, that is even lower,” he said.

Everett Community College provides an AMTEC program meant to provide training in locally needed skills like precision machining and welding.

“The programs we are delivering really deliver for the needs of the community,” said Calzadillas.

He said that the students often give positive feedback as well.

“It’s relevant and aligns to their interests. All the homework is integrated into what they’re doing for their work,” he said.

Marysville and Arlington have been working on their Arlington-Marysville Manufacturing Industrial Center as well, which is an area in north Marysville/south Arlington next to Smokey Point that officials from both cities have worked to build for industry.

“Both cities have worked hard to keep it zoned industrial,” said Jon Nehring, even as developers have desired to build houses there, he said.

Finally, Nate Nehring discussed the Regional Apprenticeship Pathways program that they hope to open in Marysville next school year.

The program is a partnership between local businesses and union to provide students with skills to enter the trades.

“If we can instill those basic tools and safety knowledge, we could connect them into an apprenticeship program to lead to one of these careers,” said Nate Nerhing.

While the program would be located at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, it would be open to students from any school district.

Nate Nehring said they hope to begin the program next year.

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