The History of Skills Inc.

Since 1966, Skills Inc. has been dedicated to serving our community and enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities by providing meaningful employment. Our journey is ongoing and continues to evolve. The last 50 years have been an exciting time that included many advancements for civil rights, technology and aerospace. Through it, our organization has adapted to remain relevant, dynamic and financially solvent.

Skills Inc. strives to maintain an exceptional, thriving affirmative business enterprise. We have implemented strong workforce development initiates to ensure we can contribute to the economic vitality of the region. By strategizing and planning for the future, we ensure that Skills Inc. will continue to positively impact our communities and the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Skills Inc. Timeline



Today, Skills Inc. employs and serves a very diverse population of adults and youth with and without disabilities. We provide essential industry, technical and workplace readiness training that is needed in today’s competitive marketplace. Hiring people with disabilities is directly related to our mission but is also an integral part of our overall diversity strategy.


Bar chart: 2019-2020 Employment. 547 in Dec. 2019. 426 in Mar. 202 with 737 Max Production Pause. 222 in Jun. 2020 with Industry downturn due to pandemic. 251 in Sep. 2020. 282 in Dec. 2020.

The year started with the grounding of the 737 Max and was further impacted by the pandemic, which hit in March. As revenue decreased more than 50%, we reluctantly initiated several rounds of layoffs, reducing to 222 employees by June. As an essential business, we never closed our doors. Government support in the form of a PPP loan along with the Shared Work Program administered by the Washington State Employment Security Department were critical supports. With an eye to the future, we relocated our Business Solutions Division to Auburn from its historic location in Ballard. Skills Inc. received the Connect Award from the Association of Washington Business for positively impacting the way in which Washington employers and communities connect to each other and the world.


Construction of line

With over 57 million in revenue, Skills Inc. employed over 600 people and served an additional 200 individuals through our programs and services. We took a major step forward in the consolidation of our aerospace finish operations, breaking ground on the largest construction project in Skills Inc. history. Crews made steady progress on two chemical processing lines at our Auburn Plant 1 facility.


Two men in suits smile and hold up a crystal award.

2017 Nonprofit Manufacturer

It was a year of big strategic moves, the biggest was consolidating our aerospace finish operations under one roof. Our finish and headquarters staff in Auburn welcomed their new coworkers, who transferred from Seattle after we began closing the finish line there.

Skills Inc. was awarded Nonprofit Manufacturer of the Year by Seattle Business Magazine—recognized as a leader in disability employment and inclusion, as well as a role model for organizations who are attempting to tap into a broader talent pool.


new penetrant line

New Penetrant System, 2016

celebrating 50 years

50 Years in Business

Skills celebrated a golden milestone: our first 50 years in business. Aerospace manufacturing became our largest line of business and Skills Technical Services opened an office and lab in Redmond. At Plant 1, a new semi-automated penetrant line was installed, built to process large and heavy parts.


CNC machine

More CNC machines, 2015

Titanium component being removed from oven

Titanium Hot Forming, 2015

Our manufacturing division continued to grow with a 40% increase in CNC machining capacity and 50% growth of titanium hot-forming production.


Seattle Chem Line, 2014

Seattle Chem Line, 2014

Lynn Strickland & Todd Dunnington

AJAC partnership was celebrated during an open house, 2014

Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) partnered with Skills Inc. to launch a Precision Metal Fabrication Apprenticeship class, the first ever hosted at an employer’s site (Auburn Plant 2). The chemical processing line at our Seattle facility was refurbished and upgraded.


New paint system installed at Auburn North, 2013

New Paint System, 2013

Tester w/service animal

An STS Accessibility Tester with his service animal, 2013

The relocation of our manufacturing business to Auburn Plant 2 freed up space for upgrades at our Auburn Plant 1, including a new paint booth system and a larger area for deburr. At Plant 2, we added a water jet, a five-axis CNC milling machine, two long-bed CNC milling machines, and titanium hot-forming to our capabilities. Skills Technical Services debuted a new service: accessibility and usability testing for technologies such as screen readers and magnifiers designed for blind or low-vision users.


aerial view of Plant 2

Aerial of Auburn Plant 2, 2012

Construction of our Auburn South facility, 2012

Construction of our new Auburn facility, 2011

A second facility is opened in Auburn at 425 C Street NW. The 55,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, initially referred to as “Auburn South” but is now “Auburn Plant 2”, houses our manufacturing business and was renovated from the ground up with our customers’ and employees’ future needs in mind.

2009- 2011

Growth chart from 2011 annual report

Growth chart from our 2011 annual report

Skills Inc. experiences significant growth with a 66% increase in revenue and 57% increase in numbers of individuals served/hired over 3 years. In 2011, with over 30 million in revenue, we employed nearly 500 people and served an additional 200 individuals through our programs and services.


Non-Profit Employer of the Year

2008 Non-Profit Employer

Skills Inc. is recognized as Washington State’s Large Non-Profit Employer of the Year by the Governor’s Committee on Employment and Disability Issues. We employ approximately 240 people and serve another 100 individuals through our programs and services.


Skills employee welds a leg onto a coffee table, 2003. Photo courtesy of Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Skills employee welds a coffee table, 2003. Photo courtesy of Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

A downturn in the aerospace industry causes our employee headcount to fall from 225 to 172, a 25% reduction. Out of a necessity to survive, Skills Inc. branches out, producing high-style metal furniture, lighting and home accessories that were sold at a retail store in downtown Seattle. Skills Inc. is no longer in the furniture business but you may still spot a few of our designs being utilized around our facilities.


AIP Class of 2002

AIP Class of 2002

The Aerospace Internship Program (AIP) is developed out of a vision to train the next generation of aerospace workers. The AIP is an educational job-training program for high school students with disabilities coordinated with local school districts.


Construction of new facility in Auburn, 1999

Construction of our new facility in Auburn, 1999

Skills Inc. expands to the South Puget Sound, opening up a facility at 715 30th Street NE in Auburn, our current corporate headquarters. The new facility includes a finish line that allows us to process parts up to 22 feet in length.


Skills Inc. decides to diversify our capabilities with a new Technical Services business line. Initial work encompassed logistical support to Microsoft’s Hardware organization, through scrapping of aged out hardware and painting of XBOX towers.


Alodine Line, 1983

Alodine Line, 1983

Skills Inc. installed its first alodine treating process line for $55,000. Our capabilities included “aircraft quality: light metal fabricating, light machine work, assembling and riveting, metal routing, metal shearing, deburring, alodining and spray painting.”


Skills Inc.’s first paint booth was purchased. The following year our first paint drying oven was installed. Headcount varied between 37 and 51 employees.


Skills Inc. in Seattle, 1978

Skills Inc. Facility, 1978

Skills Inc., categorized as a “sheltered workshop for the handicapped”, purchased a new facility at 825 NW 47th Street in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. The first shared medical plan for all employees was put into place. Skills Inc. is no longer a sheltered workshop. We have a fully integrated organization where individuals with and without disabilities work side-by-side throughout all four lines of business. 

Our Seattle facility eventually expanded to five buildings, including the original location which housed our Business Solutions line, until 2017-2020 when all operations were consolidated in Auburn.


Skills Inc. negotiated its first hourly contract rate with Boeing. The rate averaged $5.30 per hour for 6 salaried and 31 hourly employees. The first step van was also purchased this year.


Firland Tuberculosis Sanitarium, 1927. Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, Item No: 2655

Firland Tuberculosis Sanitarium, 1927. Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, Item No: 2655

Skills Inc. was established by Earl Fredericks in 1966. After being released from the Firland Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Seattle, Fredericks recognized the need for a sheltered workshop to help other Firland patients gain confidence and marketable skills to re-enter the workforce. Inspired by The Boeing Company’s philanthropic work for persons with disabilities, Fredericks obtained a grant of $4,590 from the Boeing Employee Good Neighbor Fund and Skills Inc. became a reality.

The original plant was located at 1126 North 98th in Northwest Seattle and was managed by Fredericks, along with eleven board members, until his passing in 1969.