House approves bill for vocational scholarships at rural community colleges

  • Wednesday, February 14, 2018 1:30am
  • Business

A proposed program that would provide grants for community college students to learn trades in high demand in rural areas has garnered bipartisan approval in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, prime sponsor of HB 2177, said the legislation is aimed at helping economies in timber and farm country.

“I have been leading the Rural Economic Development Team for the House, so it is very exciting to see our first priority bill pass this session,” Chapman said, following the bill’s 98-0 passage in the House on Feb. 8.

“We talk a lot about rural economy and creating jobs in rural Washington,” Chapman said at a public hearing last month. “It’s really become clear that there are good paying, family wage jobs that are available right now in rural Washington, but there are not trained workers to take those jobs.”

The bill was introduced for first reading in the Senate on Feb. 13, and was referred to Higher Education & Workforce Development for consideration.

All counties in the state would qualify except for King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Whatcom, Thurston, Clark, Benton and Spokane counties.

Lisa Perry, representing Sierra Pacific Industries, a timber company in Skagit and Lewis counties, said at the bill’s hearing that at least one line in the company is not operating because of the lack of skilled workers.

She said schools don’t encourage students to study fields like electric engineering, mechanics, or other trade fields. This bill, she said, would allow local industries to work with community colleges in their area to identify industry needs.

“We need this visibility,” Perry said. “We are short on workers.”

The proposed grant would cover tuition and fees for up to 45 credits or one year of full-time study starting no later than the Autumn quarter of the 2019-20 academic year. To be eligible, you must be a resident of a rural county, enrolled in a community college program in a high demand field, have a family income that is less than 70 percent of the state median, and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the Washington Application for State Financial Aid.

The State board of education has not yet identified specific fields that qualify as high demand areas, but must do so by January of 2019.

“We have a gap and this bill would provide the resources we need to fill that gap,” Erin Frasier, policy director for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges said.

Representative Chapman pointed to the nursing, carpentry, and welding industries as examples of high demand fields.

Amy Anderson, government affairs director of the Association of Washington Businesses, said that there will be almost three-quarters of a million jobs opening in the state within the next five years and a majority of those jobs will require a post-secondary credential of some kind. She said while graduation rates rise, only about 31 percent of high school graduates obtain a post secondary credential or degree.

The Association of Washington Businesses toured 70 manufacturers in October, Anderson said. They found that every business expressed a need for a skilled workforce. Many were unable to expand or forced to shut down manufacturing lines due to the lack of a skilled workforce.

“The need is even more acute in our rural areas in the state,” Anderson said. “The benefit would far outweigh the expenditures to the state.”

According to the bill’s fiscal note, the program would cost $259,000 per year to implement the program. The state would also match any private donations made up to $50 million per year.

“Higher education is one of the best tools in our toolbox to revitalize our small towns and rural counties,” Chapman said. “When we traveled around the state listening to local folks and businesses, we heard again and again about filling the skills gap, so we can get people the education and skills they need for the high-skill jobs in the greatest demand.

More in Business

WeDo Fudge announces 2018 charitable sales donations

As part of their annual drive to give back to the community,… Continue reading

Washington jobs report delivers promising start to new year

Washington’s economy added 6,800 jobs in January and the state’s seasonally adjusted… Continue reading

Clallam County Job Fair set for March 21

The Clallam County Annual Job Fair will be held from 10 a.m.-2… Continue reading

Gateway Mortgage celebrates grand opening in Sequim

Sequim community members and business owners celebrated the grand opening of Gateway… Continue reading

Two take leadership roles at cancer center

Ken Berkes, Interim Olympic Medical Cancer Center Director, announced last week the… Continue reading

Business briefs — March 7, 2018

Sequim’s The Emerald restaurant closes Danielle Thompson, owner of The Emerald, Northwest… Continue reading

Business briefs — Feb. 28, 2018

Sequim’s 1st Security Bank adds staffers 1st Security Bank, announced last week… Continue reading

Two families going with their gut

What started as a hobby for AJ Wooten making hot sauce recipes… Continue reading

Community, family, and frozen yogurt

Family-owned frozen yogurt shop 609 West Washington, Suite 11, Sequim Tentative opening:… Continue reading

New owners find best fit with Best Friend Nutrition

Best Friend Nutrition New owners Cynthia and Casey Linden 680 W. Washington… Continue reading

House approves bill for vocational scholarships at rural community colleges

A proposed program that would provide grants for community college students to… Continue reading

Sequim Merchant Group sets first 2018 meeting for Feb. 21

The first Sequim Merchant Group meeting of 2018 is set for 5:30-7… Continue reading