Crittenden earns two degrees under education assistance program


During the onboarding process at Milgard in 2016, Katie Crittenden heard a term that clicked with her: “education assistance program.”

She joined Milgard as a pultrusion line operator and had always wanted to go to college. Once she became eligible for the program, Crittenden began taking virtual classes at Pierce College. After receiving her associate’s degree, she enrolled in online courses at Washington State University, and finally graduated with a degree in accounting in May 2021.

“By working while completing my degree, I was better positioned to take new knowledge and start applying it from day one,” said Crittenden. “I was bringing my experiences to group discussions and assignments. Being able to apply the information and tools I was learning in the business program situationally in my current position enabled deeper learning.”

Milgard’s education assistance program covers up to $5,250 per year worth of college expenses. Since she was taking online classes, Crittenden was able to schedule her coursework around her work schedule.

“When I did need to make adjustments or take time off for finals or undergraduate research conferences,” Crittenden says, “Milgard worked with me to make it happen.”

According to Paul Kaufman, the materials manager at Pultrusion and Crittenden’s supervisor, the decision to accommodate Crittenden’s schedule was an easy one.

“Katie has the drive and desire for professional growth and development,” he says. “And she was able to apply skills and concepts that she learned during her college courses to help improve processes and provide new ideas.”

As the receiver, Crittenden monitors the supply of raw materials and maintains the records for inventory. Her coursework at Washington State enhanced the skills she needs in her position.

“As I progressed through my college program, I was able to take on additional responsibilities with raw material procurement planning,” she says. “I also had the opportunity to work on a Value Stream Mapping project here at Pultrusion and lead efforts to improve raw material storage and visual management within our facility.”

Crittenden was able to accomplish all this – working and going to school full-time – while also raising her daughter. Although juggling all those responsibilities was challenging at times, Crittenden knew that it would be worth it in the long run.

It also helped that she had the encouragement of her supervisor.

“Paul has been so supportive of my educational and professional development,” Crittenden says. “He provides a lot of opportunities to learn various aspects of the business through increasing involvement in projects and operations planning.”

Kaufman, who’s had other team members in his department take advantage of the education assistance program, is a firm believer in the project.

“It’s a win-win for both the team member and Milgard because they are able to give themselves the opportunity to grow within the company,” he says. “Retaining talent is important to the continued success of our company.”

With her degrees in hand, Crittenden is currently prepping for her CPIM (Certified in Planning and Inventory Management) test. She’s hoping to expand her knowledge of supply chain management.

“I’ve gained a lot of exposure through my current role on the materials team,” she says. “And it has really furthered my interest in supply chain and operations planning. The past year has been an exceptionally interesting time to be involved in supply chain, and I plan to progress further on that track.”

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