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Kat Schaffer in Alternative Spring Break
University of Washington junior Kat Schaffer works with sixth-graders at Brewster Elementary School through UW’s Alternative Spring Break program, one of the beneficiaries of newly announced Boeing grants. (Credit: Dennis Wise / UW)

Three universities and scores of other educational programs stand to benefit from $6 million in grants from the Boeing Co. – a bonanza that’s designed to boost the company’s future workforce in Washington state.

Grants totaling $1 million are going to the University of Washington, Washington State University and Seattle University. The other $5 million will be divvied up among about 50 nonprofit groups and educational institutions across the state.

Boeing said some of the largest grants will support Thrive Washington, which focuses on early learning; Washington STEM and its K-12 learning initiative; and SkillUp Washington, which partners with community and technical colleges on training for manufacturing jobs.

The grants focus on STEM education – science, technology, engineering and math – as well as workforce training, particularly for student populations who tend to be underrepresented when it comes to STEM.

 

Bill McSherry, vice president of government relations and global corporate citizenship for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said his company sees the grants as a long-range investment in its own future.

“Boeing’s been a longstanding member of the Washington community,” he told GeekWire. “We also know that we’ll be a significant job provider in the state for decades to come. When you look at our demographics, we know we’re going to have a large portion of our workforce eligible to retire in the coming years.

“Our goal with these grants and contributions is to make sure that it’s Washington students who are getting the skills they need to fill the jobs that we know are going to come open at Boeing and the aerospace industry,” McSherry explained.

McSherry noted that the proportion of Boeing’s workforce living in Washington has risen in recent years, from about a third in 2003 to nearly half today. He said the traditional start of the school year was “a particularly fitting time” for Boeing to announce its latest round of grants. (Fall-quarter classes begin today at Seattle University, and next week at UW.)

WSU Everett campus
An artist’s conception shows a building at Washington State University’s Everett campus, which is due to open next year. Boeing is providing a $250,000 grant to support new course work and equip new labs at the campus. (Credit: WSU / Hoffman / SRG / McKinstry)

The grants announced today are part of Boeing’s long-running tradition of supporting STEM education. McSherry noted that one of the first donations that company founder William E. Boeing made came in the form of a wind tunnel provided to the University of Washington in 1917.

More recently, Boeing and Microsoft teamed up to pledge $50 million to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program. And last year, the Boeing Co. and the Boeing family donated $30 million to the Museum of Flight for a program called Boeing Academy for STEM Learning.

UW says the newly announced $500,000 Boeing grant will help underrepresented student populations attend the university.

“This funding will enable UW programs like the Dream Project, Alternative Spring Break and others to dig deeper into their work of connecting UW undergraduates to leadership and mentorship opportunities,” Ed Taylor, vice provost and dean of undergraduate academic affairs, said in a statement.

Seattle University says it will use its $250,000 grant to fund a five-year program aimed at improving the retention of women and underrepresented minorities in its undergraduate engineering and computer science programs.

WSU’s $250,000 grant will support new course work and equip new labs at the university’s Everett campus, which is due to open in 2017. The campus’ fabrication lab will be named the Boeing Innovation Studio.

Boeing said dozens of other grants range in value from $25,000 to $550,000.

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