By Jennifer Ferrero, APR

Former boxer turned entrepreneur, George Foreman once said, “Filling a need is not merely good business; it’s a basic attitude towards life. If you see a need, do whatever you can to meet that need.” Former Boeing employee, Pat Pritchard is an example of putting this into practice.

Pritchard, who worked for Boeing in Facilities, and in a variety of machine maintenance roles, knew a lot about how to manage systems, and fix machines when they were broken.

With a desire to use that knowledge to help others to serve in a similar capacity, Pritchard took a voluntary layoff from Boeing seven years ago. He had a desire to conduct technical training, and started by talking to regional community colleges and school districts to find out what types of programs they were offering.

Pat Pritchard works with manufacturing students

Pat Pritchard works with manufacturing students at Green River College.

When he didn’t see a program, like what he had in mind, he wrote his own curriculum for machine maintenance that would become a program with stackable credentials.

He partnered with Kent School District and Green River College to develop the program. They knew that they needed funding, so they wrote a grant to the National Science Foundation and were awarded $800,000.

As they developed the program, they found out what industry partners, like Boeing, were looking for was like Mechatronics; which is a comprehensive look at fixing all parts of a machine and its functions. This would include hydraulics, pneumatics, mechanical, electrical, and computer systems.

When working in a facility like Boeing, Pritchard said, “There are risks in not knowing all parts of a system – it becomes a safety concern.”

Pritchard’s passion has propelled the program from one instructor, operating on a shoestring budget– with no place to hold classes, to having “three classes with three qualified instructors, which pretty much filled our space to capacity,” he said.

Because of Pritchard’s involvement in building up the next generation of manufacturing workers, he had some gold nuggets to share:

AUTOMATION

Simply put, “it’s here!” Pritchard summed up. “Everybody thinks about robots as the end game; but there is semi-to-full-automation coming in all industries. It is in the food processing industry, one of my students just called me up, who was hired into a food processing plant, and with Boeing at the same time – this stuff is happening, there is no question about it.”

INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIPS

When he started this project, Pritchard had already been in the Navy, at McDonnell Douglas, and with Boeing. He said that he is at the end of his career; but with the development of this program, he had the insight to involve partners. From Boeing, to Rottler Manufacturing, Green River College, and Kent School District, Pritchard worked to develop partnerships to accomplish his goal.

INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION TO LEARN

Pritchard feels that there is opportunity for people to become involved in repairing the machines that automate our factories. He sees people in fast food restaurants that have potential to learn these skills, and to become the next generation of highly paid employees. He said, “If you think about technology – everything needs to be repaired. It can be in any industry, an oil refinery, a ship in the ocean – everything is highly automated. In the mid-level range, it is the highest job demand in the US.”

Pat Pritchard is doing more than filling a need – he is an inspiration to many in his circle of influence, and will have an impact long after his career ends.