Ready, Willing and Able to Work

Manufacturing professionals generally place the shortage of qualified workers near the top of their list of challenges, but many ignore a potential resource due to preconceived notions that are usually dated, and often untrue. At least, that’s the view of Skills Inc., an aerospace supplier with three locations based in and around Seattle, Washington. This nonprofit offers training, vocational services and job placement to special-needs employees and also hires them for its own purposes.

Cheryl Roe, MNPL (master’s in nonprofit leadership), director of programs and development, says, “Too many employers assign difficulties that simply don’t exist to the prospect of hiring people with disabilities. Part of our mission is to show that you really can succeed while at the same time helping others.”

Building Skills

The company was founded in 1966, and in the beginning it was solely dedicated to training individuals with various disabilities on how to manufacture parts that were then supplied to the aerospace market. The range of work has expanded since then, but this sector still makes up about 40 percent of its activities. The remainder involves finishing, assembly and technical services, along with business solutions such as kitting and polybagging. ISO 9001 and AS9100 registered, the company handles sheet metal fabrication—including punching, forming and deburring—and three-, four- and five-axis CNC machining and programming. Machining is conducted on more than 20 high-performance pieces of equipment, including a CNC lathe from Okuma and a dozen CNC mills from Haas, Fadal and Bridgeport. All three-, four- and five-axis machines were recently equipped with Vericut, the CNC machining simulation/optimization software package developed by CGTech. All of the company’s technology was paid for by the revenue it generates, (rather than being donated or funded by grants), and in addition to producing aerospace-worthy parts, Skills Inc. ensures that program graduates deliver leading-edge operational knowledge to their employers.

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