PORT ANGELES — Armstrong Marine Inc. has received a $123,000 grant to help train certified aluminum welders to expand its business, the state Department of Commerce announced.
Partnering with Peninsula College and Impact Washington, Armstrong Marine will use the Governor’s Work Start grant to develop a customized training curriculum for students who will learn to weld at the college and the company’s headquarters at 151 Octane Lane east of Port Angeles.
Armstrong Marine, which won a $38 million government contract to build maintenance barges for the U.S. Navy in 2013, plans to double its workforce in the Port Angeles area, adding 60 new jobs over the next two years.
Company spokesman A.J. Kacouros said the Commerce-funded Work Start project would be a “great win for the community.”
“Job training in this area is nice,” Kacouros added in a Thursday interview.
The seven-week summer course will involve welding instruction at Peninsula College and specialized aluminum welding at Armstrong Marine.
Kacouros said the advanced training would “put a little bit of a fire under” young welders for careers in marine trades.
In addition to meeting Armstrong Marine’s demand for qualified welders, the Work Start program will become part of the Peninsula College curriculum to support future growth in the state’s $37.6 billion maritime industry sector, state officials said.
“Boat- and shipbuilding, repair and maintenance is a vital subsector of Washington’s maritime industry, and a key economic driver for Clallam County,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a Commerce news release.
“This project not only supports Armstrong Marine’s immediate expansion plans, but also supports our goals to increase export opportunities and continue to build our maritime, military and defense sectors.”
The program will begin this summer with 15 welders. It culminates in American Welding Society certification testing.
High school students may be eligible through Running Start, Commerce officials said.
Officials will gather for a technical roundtable today to discuss the project schedule and course requirements.
Commerce officials said the grant will help train 90 certified marine welders in Port Angeles over the next five years.
“It is a priority for us to support living-wage job creation in our rural communities, and Armstrong is indicative of an industry in need of these high-demand jobs,” said Joshua Berger, Inslee’s maritime sector lead at Commerce.
“Facilitating connections between local employers and the training community is critical to creating a sustainable pathway for new and incumbent workers.”
Many of the 17,000 employed in the ship- and boatbuilding sector statewide are aging out of the workforce, Berger said.
Impact Washington is a nonprofit that aims to help make manufacturers become more globally competitive.
“The AMI [Armstrong Marine] partnership with Peninsula College and Impact Washington will train highly skilled marine aluminum welders to fulfill the immediate needs of AMI and provide a platform to facilitate its future growth,” said Loren Lyon, Impact Washington president.
“It will also institutionalize the training to produce additional highly paid, skilled aluminum welders to support other boatbuilders on the Peninsula. In a rural county with considerable workforce headwinds, this Work Start program is of particular importance.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected]