5The 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.


Seattle Chem Line, 2009

Seattle Chem Line, 2009

Seattle Chem Line, 2014

Seattle Chem Line, 2014

Refurbished and upgraded our Seattle facility’s chemical processing line.


New paint system installed at Auburn North, 2013

New paint system at Auburn North, 2013

The relocation of our manufacturing business to Auburn South freed up space for upgrades at our Auburn North facility, including a new paint booth system and a larger area for deburr. At Auburn South, we added a water jet, a five-axis CNC milling machine, two long-bed CNC milling machines, and titanium hot-forming to our capabilities.


Construction of our Auburn South facility, 2012

Construction of our new Auburn South facility, 2012

A second facility is opened in Auburn at 425 C Street NW. The 55,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, referred to as “Auburn South”, 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. Over the years, our technical services work has grown and progressed.


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 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.


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.