Workforce shortages in the construction and building trades have become ever apparent with a red hot building market in the Puget Sound region. Fewer young people are joining the trades and, when they are, it typically is not until they are in their late twenties. This represents a decade of potentially lost productivity and wage-earning. This is the problem that the Regional Apprenticeship Pathways (RAP) Program seeks to solve. On January 7th, we held a ribbon cutting ceremony at Marysville-Pilchuck High School to celebrate the first academic year of this innovative program and show appreciation for the many dedicated stakeholders who made it happen. 

The RAP Program started with a conversation between labor leaders, industry representatives, and education officials. It became clear that there was a lack of career pathways for young people to transition from high school into the building trades. While much of the focus of our K-12 education system is on four-year universities, there are many students whose interests and skillsets fit better with an apprenticeship in the skilled trades following high school. 

The RAP Program is a pre-apprenticeship program designed by education and labor experts to incorporate key competencies from the trades into a curriculum preparing students for a successful career as an electrician, carpenter, laborer or any other of a large host of options. Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to graduate high school with their high school diploma, college credentials from Everett Community College, and preferred or direct entry into a state-certified apprenticeship program. 

Our many involved stakeholders have made the creation, funding, and operation of the program successful. Representatives from labor, industry, education, and local government helped to support the development of the concept of the RAP Program and the lobbying effort in Olympia to secure stable funding for its ongoing operation. 

The recent ceremony celebrated our stakeholders and recognized the work of the first class of students in the program who started in September of 2019. This class of students have shown great progress in just a couple of months in building their competencies and building unit projects to demonstrate their new abilities. We had the opportunity to hear from one of these students at the ribbon cutting ceremony along with comments from school district and elected officials. 

Following the program, we toured the RAP Center, a building the Marysville School District has donated which will host the program moving forward. The space is perfect for the program with areas for classroom-style instruction and shop areas for the students to put their knowledge to the test. The students also presented some of the products of their labor and were available to speak to guests about their experience in the RAP Program so far. 

I am excited about the early success of the RAP Program and appreciate the great work of all the community partners who came together to make a positive impact for our students.  

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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