ARLINGTON – Several industries face a shortage of skilled workers, and the Skilled Trades Day fair at Arlington High School on Wednesday brought some of them face to face with students who could one day be their next generation of paycheck-earners.
Chris Whiteman, Career and Technical Education teacher at AHS in engineering and manufacturing, said he wants students to know that “There are jobs available in their back yard.” He doesn’t mean mowing the lawn.
“I want them to know they can get a good-paying job and still live in their mom and dad’s basement at the same time,” he said.
Only in its second year, the event more than tripled its turnout of participating companies from 9 to 31, attracting hundreds of high school students and bused-in middle schoolers from Post and Haller to the school bus parking area. Students explored heavy machinery, big rigs and handled manufacturing equipment and parts that were on display.
In all, 14 of the companies had “Now Hiring” signs tacked to their vendor booths.
One of them was Barnhart Crane and Rigging, with its closest location in Mount Vernon, which brought a full-sized crane.
AHS junior Jonathan Schroeder climbed into the cab listening as Barnhart worker Ben Walthers told students that for proof the local job market is strong, just look at the Seattle skyline.
“Seattle has more cranes up now than any other city in the United States,” Walthers said. “There are all kinds of local jobs.”
Schroeder can’t picture himself operating a crane after graduation, but he appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the companies that attended.
“I think there’s so much to do out there, but it’s always good to be curious,” he said. Schroeder likes business and engineering – architecture or the chemical side – as potential future careers.
“I learned about those fields on my own time, and learned what those jobs consist of,” he said. “That’s just where my interest is.”
Student Jordan Alvarez said she doesn’t have a specific field in mind when she enters the workforce someday, but the U.S. Forest Service, Snohomish County Park rangers who were at the fair “had me thinking I might like to do something outdoors.”
Whiteman said many of the companies there “have full-time jobs, apprenticeships and seasonal summer jobs, and they’re actually looking to hire today.”
The event drew a diverse group of businesses including the traditional trades – carpenter, iron workers, electrical, welding and construction, law enforcement and fire service, among others. The Boeing Co. and Senior Aerospace AMT also attended.
Matt Washburn is training manager at Senior Aerospace AMT in Arlington. He also teaches continuing night classes in Machining through an Everett Community College program, while working with the mayor and other partners to open a makerspace innovation center in town.
“Our company really has a deep desire to be community-minded,” said Washburn, explaining why it was important for them to be there. They’re collaborating more now with the school district to talk to kids in middle school to get them more excited about manufacturing.
“It’s way early; we don’t expect them to be career-minded, but it’s to plant a seed,” he said.
AMT corporate recruiter Matt Welch said, “We want the best talent we can find.”
While their table included precision-machined plane parts, it’s not just machining and fabrication jobs available with the company. They have jobs for those who want to work in the office or break into management, he said. Their hope is that by talking with students, someday they will remember the company name and apply for a position.
Event co-coordinator Collin Nelson , CTE teacher at Haller and Post, said involving younger students gets them thinking about career directions when they enter high school.
Nelson said when his middle schoolers learned that through trade apprenticeships they wouldn’t have to go to school for 40 hours a week, they would train in their chosen field for eight months with little class time, and get paid, they were stunned.
That’s just it, he explained to them, “You’re getting paid while you’re doing the training.”
Nelson cited an iron worker he talked to a couple of weeks ago. The 21-year-old was right out of high school, making $70,000 a year, bought his own house and drives a new truck.
Whiteman said students need to know that high-demand jobs are in their own community, training is nearby such as at Everett Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Training and Education Center (AMTEC) machining program at Weston High School, and they don’t have to travel hours to a job.
He added, “They don’t have to go deep into debt for a high-end degree to make a lot of money. A lot of these companies, their workers are making $20 an hour right from the get go.”