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.|
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.
Our manufacturing division continued to grow with a 40% increase in CNC machining capacity and 50% growth of titanium hot-forming production.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Over the years, our technical services work has grown and progressed.|
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., 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 also put into place.
Our Seattle facility has since expanded to five buildings, including the original location which now houses our Business Solutions line and we are 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.
|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.|
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.