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Composites manufacturing courses gaining steam at Federal Way school

Federal Way Public Schools - Courtesy Federal Way Public Schools
Federal Way Public Schools
— image credit: Courtesy Federal Way Public Schools

The composites manufacturing courses at Todd Beamer High School are quickly gaining popularity among students, according to Larry DuFresne, the school’s composite manufacturing instructor.

“There’s quite a bit of buzz in the building about it, I have students coming up to me all the time and talking about it,” DuFresne said during the Federal Way Public Schools board of directors meeting Jan. 28.

It’s easy to see why students would be interested, as students can earn a “living wage” directly out of high school with the completion of the necessary education for composite materials manufacturing, DuFresne noted.

“Students entering Boeing as a grade four composite fabricator start off at $16 per hour. After six years, they can make $35 per hour, and with average overtime, first-year employees could make $40-$60,000 per year,” he said. “After six years, they can make $70,000 before overtime is calculated.”

DuFresne noted that this field is fast growing, and that those opportunities with Boeing will only continue to increase, with Boeing’s current attrition rate sitting at 24 percent. Outside of Boeing, AIM Aerospace and Angles Composite Technology Inc. are two larger local employers heavily involved in the composite manufacturing business.

Outside of those major local businesses, composite materials are beginning to spread to diverse industries, DuFresne noted.

Other employment options in composite manufacturing include automotive and marine companies, which are starting to use carbon fiber in the production of vehicles; sporting equipment manufacturers;and medical devices, such as prosthetics, are now becoming more mainstream and widely available in composites, DuFresne said.

“And wind farms. Wind farm generator cells and blades are made from carbon fiber kevlar,” he added. “This is starting to take off. Nowadays, you see many wind farms on the eastern side of the Cascades. Our hope is to get our students in at the ground level of these growing fields.”

Board member Claire Wilson asked DuFresne how many classes he’s currently teaching for composite materials manufacturing. He said he has two classes currently, with approximately 30 students in each. If a third class period was available, he thinks it would likely fill up to about the same numbers.

Composite materials manufacturing is part of the district’s overarching Career and Technical Education program. To learn more about that program, visit www.fwps.org/academics/cte.

 

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