Recent market studies have shown that the construction industry will grow faster in Snohomish County than neighboring counties in the Puget Sound region. Workforce Snohomish reports that we are poised to see a growth of 25% in the construction industry in Snohomish County over the next ten years. We are already seeing a lack of trained workers to fill posts as carpenters, electricians, construction laborers, and more. With the growth in these jobs, it is important now, more than ever, to be preparing for the pending demand for a skilled workforce.

For this reason, I teamed up with labor and industry leaders as well as other elected and education officials to form the North County Trade School Collaborative. The Collaborative has met over the past three months and developed a plan for addressing the workforce shortage now and into the future.

Our effort focuses on the barriers that stop or discourage youth from joining certified apprenticeship programs and, as a result, stop them from building a career in the construction trades. One of the most shocking revelations throughout this process was that most apprentices are not entering training programs until they are in their late-twenties. This means that we are losing out on over a decade of productivity from these workers as they search for their desired career pathway.

Our proposal creates the Regional Apprenticeship Pathways (RAP) Program. The RAP Program teams up high schools, Everett Community College, and local trades to provide a pre-apprenticeship option for students in high school. This pre-apprenticeship will allow high school juniors and seniors to attend their regular high school classes for part of the day and participate in specialized training for another portion.

This specialized training will include basic construction skills and education to build a foundation for further exploration into the trades. After completion of the introductory step, students will have the opportunity to dabble in a variety of trades to gauge their interest in carpentry, electrical work, and construction labor. The second part of the program will focus specifically on a chosen trade that the youth decide they want to pursue. This will be done in the high school in partnership with the community college and local trade professionals to create a seamless pipeline for the youth.

Upon completion of the program, students will graduate high school with their high school diploma, college credentials, and a pre-apprenticeship certification. The pre-apprenticeship certification will give them preferred entry into their chosen apprenticeship path. With college credit, students will have a smoother path to a college degree in construction related programs if they choose that route.

The Trade School Collaborative presented the RAP Program proposal to Governor Inslee’s staff with the goal that funding for the program will be included in the next biennial state budget. We will continue to work to get this program funded and off the ground in the coming months. We believe that a program like this is necessary to create that seamless pipeline for our youth toward a successful career in the skilled trades.

Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at 425-388-3494.

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