Washington is a diverse and tech-friendly state with a wealth of employment opportunities for vocational school graduates. The state's economy is in good shape, and is home to nine Fortune 500 companies including Costco (Kirkland), Microsoft (Redmond), Amazon (Seattle) and Starbucks (Seattle). In a testament to Washington's business friendly climate, the state has been able to attract hundreds of other private businesses that are just as competitive as the retail and software giants, Starbucks and Microsoft.
Vocational education trends in Washington
Washington is home to a sector-based economic development strategy, hinged on fostering growth in key industries. The Washington State Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness has identified several business sectors for major investment and expansion to drive economic growth in the state:
- Aerospace: There are more than 1,350 aerospace-related companies in the state. Anchored by Boeing Commercial, the aerospace industry drove over $76 billion in state economic activity and employees more than 131,000 people.
- Clean technology: Over 100 companies, across 12 industrial sectors, work in clean technology in Washington. The sector is responsible for employing nearly 90,000 individuals throughout the state.
- Information and communication technology. The information and communication industry in Washington includes companies working in telecommunication, software design and data management. The sector employs over 190,000 in the state and total annual payroll is more than $21 billion annually.
- Life science and global health: This business sector is comprised of a mix of companies, including 294 medical device, 191 biopharma and 78 nonprofit research businesses and organizations. Total state employment in this sector includes approximately 34,000 positions and 57,000 related positions.
Each of these industries includes career paths for vocational school graduates in Washington. The size and diversity of each business segment offers prospective students the opportunity to explore a range of potential training programs, from avionics to manufacturing, computer science to public health.
Career opportunities for Washington trade school grads
Vocational and technical training provides the skills needed for entry into Washington's growing business sectors. This job growth allows Washington to have a low unemployment rate, at 5.8 percent in March 2016, according to numbers reported by the Washington State Employment Security Department.
In a testament to Washington's business friendly climate, the state has been able to attract hundreds of other private businesses that are just as competitive as the retail and software giants, Starbucks and Microsoft, respectively. Some of the fastest-growing private companies in the state, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal include the following:
- 110 Consulting (Bellevue)
- A&R Solar (Seattle)
- Affirma Consulting (Bellevue)
- Akvelon Inc. (Bellevue)
- AltaSource Group (Kirkland)
Additionally, the Seattle metro area continues to be a place of business investment and innovation. Vocational training is important in Washington State. In addition to 34 community and technical colleges, Washington also has vocationally focused programs and associations, such as the Washington Association for Career and Technical Education and Washington Vocational Services. Many companies in the state turn to vocational graduates to build their trained, skilled workforce.
The list below includes companies that regularly hire individuals with vocational training (data from Washington Vocational Services):
- AMC Theatres
- Burger King
- Hobby Lobby
- Motel 6
In fact, some of the career paths projected to experience the greatest number of job openings according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are careers requiring either vocational education or post-secondary training. Below is an example list of those careers:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Median Wage||Projected Employment Change|
|Floor Sanders and Finishers||60||31460||900|
|Floor Layers, Except Carpet, Wood, and Hard Tiles||27970||1,900|
|Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers||380||54550||3,600|
|Mechanical Door Repairers||240||32190||3,800|
|Engine and Other Machine Assemblers||390||35280||-600|
|Insulation Workers, Floor, Ceiling, and Wall||460||29360||6,100|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||390||24250||10,500|
|Tile and Marble Setters||350||29120||5,900|
|Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders||400||37230||10,600|
|Structural Iron and Steel Workers||840||44360||12,700|
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||620||34970||25,200|
|Telecommunications Line Installers and Repairers||1560||35910||8,100|
|Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers||1530||30550||41,000|
Financial aid in Washington
Those seeking financial aid for technical schools in Washington are in luck. A variety of programs, from federal grants and loans to state- and industry- specific funds and scholarships are available to make vocational training an attainable option for Washington residents. Students who complete Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) might them themselves eligible for Pell Grants, Perkins Loans and other financial aid options through the federal government, while other programs offer financial aid opportunities unique to Washington.
Students seeking tuition assistance and financial aid for vocational training in Washington have many state-specific options. Programs including the State Need Grant, the College Bound Scholarship, State Work Study, or Passport Scholarship are available to students who complete the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA) and are deemed eligible. Students who are ineligible for federal financial aid due to immigration requirements might find assistance under WASFA programs. Other Washington financial aid programs that might benefit vocational and technical education students include the Aerospace Loan Program, GET Ready Math and Science Conditional Scholarship and Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Programs.
Some individuals interested in Washington vocational education programs might find tuition assistance through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This federal program is supported by the Washington's progressive sector-based economic development strategy and can assist qualifying job seekers pay for programs related to careers in the state's targeted sectors.
Individuals considering enrollment in a vocational school in Washington should learn more how a certificate, diploma or training program could open the door to potential careers in health care, construction, software development, culinary arts and more.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/
- Monthly Employment Report, https://fortress.wa.gov/esd/employmentdata/docs/economic-reports/current-monthly-employment-report.pdf
- Workforce Board, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, http://wtb.wa.gov/WIOA.asp
- BizJournals, Boeing tops the list of Washington State's largest employers, http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/subscriber-only/2013/07/26/boeing-tops-the-list-of-washington.html
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington Economy at a Glance, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.wa.htm
- Department of Commerce, Improving the Economic Development System in Washington State, http://www.commerce.wa.gov/Documents/Commerce-WEDC-Proviso-Work-Group.pdf
- Export Washington, http://www.exportwashington.com/Pages/default.aspx
- Inc., 2014 Inc. 5000, http://www.inc.com/inc5000/list/2014/metro/seattle