Program clears a path for trade jobs

  • Saturday, September 1, 2018 1:30am
  • Opinion

A skilled workforce is critical to the livability of our region, productivity of our economy, and prosperity of our families.

We must be ready and willing to address the needs of industry in preparing our youth for a productive career. That is why I have partnered with local stakeholders to create the North County Trade School Collaborative. The group of leaders is from education, labor, industry and local government who has met the past few months with the goal of finding a solution for the skills gap that exists within the workforce as it relates to careers in the construction trades.

We heard from our partners in labor and industry that we just don’t have enough qualified workers to fill the growing demand in that industry. One of the biggest indicators of need was the surprising observation that the average age of apprentices entering the trades is in the late 20s. This means that we are missing out on almost a decade of post high school productivity for many workers in the trades.

By bringing together partners from all sides of this issue, we have identified certain barriers for young people interested in the trades and are working on a proposal to address those barriers. We are also well aware of the growth of construction jobs heading our way over the next decade. According to research from Workforce Snohomish, Snohomish County is expected to see the highest percentage growth of construction jobs in the Puget Sound region.

Specifically, the three trades with the highest expectation for growth are carpenters, electricians and construction laborers. As a result, local and regional labor leaders from these three trades have been a critical piece of this effort. The collaborative is proposing a Regional Apprenticeship Pathways program. The program has been developed with the help of Everett Community College and the Arlington and Marysville school districts with input from labor and industry leaders. The program would create a more seamless transition from high school to apprenticeships through a pre-apprenticeship pathway.

The pre-apprenticeship pathway will give high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to explore training in the construction trades and gain valuable skills and education related to trades work. Important elements such as workplace safety, tool usage, applied math and others will be covered in addition to hands-on field experience with trained carpenters, electricians and construction laborers. At the end of the program, students will have completed high school, received general and trade-specific construction training, and earned college credit through the community college. Graduates will be on a fast track into certified apprenticeship programs immediately after graduating high school.

The North County Trade School Collaborative is in the beginning stages of a program that will help address our workforce shortage and provide opportunities for our youth to achieve success through a career in the skilled trades.

Nate Nehring is the Snohomish County councilman who represents Marysville, Arlington and elsewhere.

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