Industry Highlight: Key Technology 



Key Technology in Walla Walla is eager to hire people with manufacturing skills. To help fill their demand for manufacturing employees, the company is helping spark students’ interests in manufacturing careers while still in high school.  

“Key Technology is currently growing exponentially,” said Edi Dirkes, director of human resources at Key Technology. “Right now, I have 40 openings in manufacturing. Hiring people for those positions can be challenging if we don’t support our local schools. The partnership with SEATech Skills Center and our local schools is something we’d like to grow and that we depend on to help fill open positions.”  

Key Technology is a worldwide leader in food processing technology, with its corporate headquarters in Walla Walla and facilities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Mexico. Manufacturing Key Technology’s conveying, sorting, and processing equipment requires high-level, hands-on manufacturing experience by people who are skilled working with food-grade stainless steel. A few miles away in a Core Plus Aerospace classroom at SEATech Skills Center, high school students have the opportunity to learn those fundamental manufacturing skills and work with materials similar to those used every day at Key Technology. 

Core Plus Aerospace graduate and Key Technology employee Ashton Bump.

Key Technology often hires Core Plus Aerospace graduates straight out of high school. What the graduates learned in their Core Plus Aerospace coursework helps them successfully make the transition from school to a career at Key Technology. Core Plus Aerospace graduates have a head start in their careers thanks to a foundation in skills like blueprint reading, along with an idea of where they want to take their career.    

“Core Plus Aerospace students really get to see what it’s like to build and design something and take responsibility for it,” Edi said. “They also get to see if they want to pursue a manufacturing career. A Core Plus Aerospace graduate has a level of commitment early in high school that they carry into employment.” 

Edi visits classrooms at SEATech Skills Center, where she participates in mock interviews with students, recruits and gives presentations about what it’s like to work at Key Technology. The team at Key Technology is also working to set up mentorship opportunities for students who have an interest in pursuing a manufacturing career.  

“There are so many different careers in manufacturing that can start when you understand the hands-on skills that you can get in high school,” Edi said. “This is a practical relationship with the instructors and students. It’s a partnership that can help students become career manufacturing employees.”