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Alaska Airlines Partners with Port Jobs for Airport Worker Scholarships at Sea-Tac

Posted on Dec 19 by Heather Worthley

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Alaska Airlines Partners with Port Jobs for Airport Worker Scholarships at Sea-Tac

Next time you’re standing in the security line at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), look up. At the far end of the Mezzanine level you’ll find Airport Jobs, an airport employment center run by the nonprofit Port Jobs.  Here, more than 100 in-airport employers post open positions, and more than 1,000 people a year find jobs with airport companies.  Most of these jobs now pay more than $15 per hour. And thanks to Alaska Airlines, airport workers now have access to a new scholarship fund to help them continue their education while advancing in career pathways at the airport.

In 2014, Alaska Airlines made a generous investment in Port Jobs’ Airport University program, and established a scholarship fund open to all airport workers, regardless of employer.  This scholarship program is now in its second year, and more than $100,000 has been distributed to help airport workers pursue studies ranging from Aviation Maintenance Technology to Mechanical Engineering.

Interviews with Port Jobs’ Airport University Alaska Airlines scholarship recipients underscore the deep attachment that many have for the work environment at Sea-Tac Airport. One person who had worked at the airport for several years said that she had initially “fallen in love with” working at the airport after being employed in a summer job there. Another reported that he liked the “fast, intense environment of air cargo” and a few explained that they chose airport-connected jobs because of the associated travel benefits. Three scholarship recipients were from “airport families”. The mother of one these people had worked for United Airlines for 30 years. The reflections of one person, “I like the environment – it is a whole new world” summed up the sentiments of many. Yet another scholarship recipient said her love of aviation started early, recalling how she felt as a 5 year old when an Alaska Airlines captain showed her buttons and levers used to operate the aircraft, and the flight attendant gave her souvenirs. She said, “At that moment, without knowing it my love of aviation had started.” She was using her scholarship for flight training and towards earning a BA in Professional Pilot.

All used the Alaska Airlines scholarships as a way to pursue their education and career goals, often saying how receiving a scholarship made it possible to take prerequisites and courses required to earn different degrees and licenses.

Many explained that without the scholarships they would have been forced to delay their education, or to cut back on the number of courses they could take. For some this could mean delaying their involvement in school for a year or more. Conversely, one person said if the scholarship was not available he might be compelled to take too many courses, in order to meet the 10 credit requirement to qualify for worker retraining support. This strategy, he said, would be difficult and likely result in poorer performance. Another person emphasized that if she had not received a scholarship she would have tried to get extra shifts, which would likely damage her school and work performance. Yet another person said that the scholarship “gave him confidence and ownership” in his work. The scholarships provided the necessary glue for many people to patch together resources necessary to continue their education.

Description of Scholarship Recipients

The results of interviews with and data collected from 22 scholarship recipients (10 female, 12 male) revealed that the scholarships served an ethnically diverse audience, ranging in age from 21 to 59.  The largest scholarship recipient age group (54%) was in the 21-29 year old age range. Scholarship recipients were ethnically diverse, including Caucasian (50%); Asian (13%); African (13%); African American/Black (4%); Alaska/Pacific Islander (4%); and Spanish/Hispanic/Latino (4%).


  • Scholarship recipients were working at the following companies: Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Swissport Fueling, Swissport Cargo, Alaska Airlines, Menzies, Planeware and Smart Carte.
  • The types of jobs held by individuals included customer service, ramp agent, fuelers, provisioning agent, sales associate, field service tech, tower coordinator, lead ramp service agent, ramp baggage, and regional safety compliance and environmental coordinator.

Eighty-eight airport workers have received scholarships to date, and more than $100,000 has been distributed.  These workers hail from 16 different countries, and in addition to English, speak Somali, Amharic, Tagalog, Spanish, and a dozen other languages.

Many scholarship recipients are pursuing middle skill jobs that will benefit the port economy, as customs brokers, aviation maintenance technicians, airline dispatchers, airport environmental scientists, airport hospitality and tourism managers, pilots, supply chain managers and more. All provide inspiration to their families and colleagues in the port economy who witness their hard work and determination to build their skills and pursue their dreams.

Scholarship recipients have enrolled at 28 separate institutions of higher education.  The four most represented are Highline College, the University of Washington, South Seattle College, and Green River College. 

Hats off to Alaska Airlines for offering all Sea-Tac airport workers the opportunity to build skills, increase knowledge, and move up in their airport careers!