From Choose Washington 2023-2024

Washington’s Ready to Work

No matter the industry, statewide workforce development programs grow with federal support.

Workforce Development
by Alexis Elmore

n a world where one can enter any career they dream of, living in Washington is a resourceful start to that journey.

“Over the past few years, the state has made major investments in transportation, broadband connectivity, and other essential infrastructure to enhance accessibility and connectivity,” says Chris Green, assistant director of the state’s Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness. “Our goal is to improve the quality of life of our residents, help them secure living wage jobs, help attract new businesses, enable remote work and provide better access to education.” 

From fresh beginnings to career transitions the state is preparing itself to make sure residents have the resources and opportunities they need to kickstart their dreams. Wherever you find yourself in the state, there is an industry ecosystem waiting to help and there are partnerships blossoming to address future workforce needs.

Moving Industries Forward

In July 2023, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries was awarded $5.6 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Labor toward the State Apprenticeship Expansion grant. Of the total $65.5 million that was awarded to 45 states, Washington received the fifth-most in funding. 

Based on the number of apprenticeships in Washington, annual formula funding offered a little over $1 million for the state’s program. To top it off, the state received a massive boost with $4.6 million of competitive funding won by only seven of the 45 awardees. Additional funding will support Washington’s efforts to expand and diversify registered apprenticeship programs in the following industries: manufacturing, cybersecurity, infrastructure, clean energy, education and healthcare.

These targeted industries have been in focus for the state for several years. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for estimated employment change by industry from July 2022 to July 2023, education and health services employment rose by 25,900 jobs. Meanwhile, manufacturing employment grew by 2,400 jobs, and within aerospace product and parts manufacturing 7,100 new jobs were added.

“Last year, there were 21,252 registered apprentices across 201 occupations in the state of Washington — a number that will only grow as workers are trained to build the infrastructure projects we funded last Congress. Providing Washingtonians with new skills and career pathways is critical to meeting the needs of our state’s growing economy,” said Washington Senator Maria Cantwell in an announcement. “These apprenticeship grants will help remove barriers for good, high-paying jobs while investing in folks from underrepresented communities.”

Washington has seen a steady increase in the number of active apprenticeship programs, having added 3,576 in 2022 to a total of 17,676 apprentices in 2021. Of the 2022 registered apprenticeships, women accounted for 2,896 positions while 7,522 apprentices reflected a minority background.




The new influx in funding will be used for equipment upgrades and provide wrap-around services for registered apprenticeship programs. The announcement stated that Puget Sound Boilermakers, Greater Western WA Pipe and NW Maritime were among the selected recipients of new funding.

Micron Trusts in Washington

For many companies moving operations back to the U.S. one question stays top of mind, “How can we grow our next-generation workforce?” When it comes to crafting a skilled talent pipeline in any region, company collaboration plays a powerful role in attracting and retaining workers. 

Micron Technology, Inc. announced the beginning of its U.S.-Japan University Partnership for Workforce Advancement and Research and Development in Semiconductors (UPWARDS) for the Future initiative in May 2023. By bringing together 11 “founding” universities in both the U.S. and Japan, the company is setting out to create a semiconductor workforce that can withstand any challenge.

The University of Washington was selected as one of the 11 announced universities that will work alongside Micron in developing semiconductor curriculum and opportunity for cross-collaboration. The company and its partners plan to invest over $60 million within the next five years to support the creation of industry-focused programs that promote pathways to higher education, especially for underrepresented groups.

“Our economic security depends on our ability to expand semiconductor development, manufacturing, and expertise,” said University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce. “As a leader in chip engineering and workforce development for the global innovation economy, the University of Washington is proud to partner with Micron and other leading U.S. and Japanese universities in the University Partnership for Workforce Advancement and Research & Development in Semiconductors (UPWARDS) for the Future, which has great potential to drive advancements in this crucial scientific field.”

Through this partnership an average of 5,000 students will be given the opportunity to gain experience in cleanrooms and memory-related research.

A few weeks following UPWARD for the Future’s announcement, Micron and the National Science Foundation announced that two Washington universities would also play a role in the creation of the Northwest Semiconductor Network. This partnership caters solely to building the nation’s semiconductor industry workforce, enlisting the help of universities in Washington, Idaho, California, Oregon, Utah and Montana.

The University of Washington and Washington State University were among the selected research institutions and plan to leverage this collaboration to increase regional partnerships while expanding the semiconductor curriculum. Since 2007, Washington State University has seen its computer science and engineering degree program increase by 83% while the University of Washington has been ranked as one of the top public engineering schools in the nation.

Collaboration between industry and local universities continues to take place around the state. With Washington leadership putting focus into crafting innovation clusters and companies cementing their trust in the state’s R&D capabilities, the talent gap is looking to be a challenge of the past. 

Alexis Elmore
Associate Editor of Site Selection magazine

Alexis Elmore

Alexis Elmore joined Conway Data in 2022 as associate editor for Site Selection. A 2021 graduate of the University of Georgia, she studied journalism and communications before moving back to Atlanta to pursue her career. As an editor for Site Selection and contributor to Conway's Custom Content guides, she writes about economic development efforts and corporate growth happening around the globe.


As the No. 1 state in the nation, Washington’s economic strengths continue to earn top honors and attract new investments.

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