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Airport University - Highline College and Seattle Port Jobs
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 FOR MORE INFORMATION
  Crystal Kitterman
  Director Continuing Education
  Highline College
  Des Moines, WA
  ckitterman@highline.edu

 


Highline College, located in Des Moines, Washington, and Port Jobs, a Seattle-based non-profit organization, work collaboratively to implement Airport University (AU), a unique employer-driven, credit workforce development program located onsite at Sea-Tac International Airport. Sea-Tac Airport is an important economic driver in the Pacific Northwest, supporting more than 19,000 jobs onsite. The AU partnership brings free credit-bearing college classes to airport employees at their workplace, helping them build the education and skills needed to advance in high demand, family sustaining jobs in aviation, transportation, hospitality and security.

AU primarily serves entry-level, frontline airport employees such as ramp agents, wheelchair attendants, baristas, customer service agents, airplane cabin cleaners, and food service workers. The AU model accommodates the needs of an extremely diverse (age, culture, skill level) and largely low-income working student population. More than 80% of AU students are people of color, and the majority are immigrants and refugees who speak English-as-a-second language. Some work more than one job to support families in the U.S. and back home. Nearly 40% are young adults ages 18 to 29; 54% are women. In addition to classes, students are connected to onsite resources through Port Jobs’ Airport Jobs employment center, including Alaska Airlines-funded scholarships, monthly career pathway presentations in (for example) aviation maintenance and apprenticeships, career and education navigation, and open interview sessions with airport companies.

AU is an example of how a partnership between a nonprofit and a college serves as a de facto employee assistance program to incumbent workers and employers. Alaska Airlines is a key funder of the program, and other airport companies provide input into training and class needs. Other partners that provide leveraged support include the Port of Seattle as well as the City of Seattle Office of Economic Development, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Boeing Charitable Trust, Department of Social and Health Services, National Fund for Workforce Solutions, City of Tukwila, and United Way.

Since the AU partnership began, nearly 1,000 people have completed more than 2,300 college classes at the airport. More than 45 people have completed short-term certificates in Business Technology, Homeland Security, Hospitality/Tourism and Business Crisis Continuity at Highline by taking AU classes. Many more have built skills, retained positions and advanced in their education and careers. AU stands out in the area of workforce education for its laser focus on the provision of ongoing post-employment support and success in building diverse and inclusive talent pipelines for incumbent workers.

 

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