By Suzanne Gretch, Pre-Apprenticeship Coordinator, NEWTECH Skill Center
Kathleen Proud, Administrative Intern, NEWTECH Skill Center
Tricia Talbot, Counselor, NEWTECH Skill Center
I have been working in Career and Technical Education for the better part of a decade. Until recently, I have never seen the well-deserved attention heeded to the trades by businesses, school administrators, or our lawmakers. At the end 2017, Governor Inslee awarded $6.4 million to Career Connect Washington grant funding, which will create close to 30,000 career connected learning experiences through 2019. Students, educators, and employers will now have the funding and resources to create and run internships, pre-apprenticeships, and registered apprenticeships. Governor Inslee and Career Connect are rightfully recognizing the immediate and future demand for skilled labor in our state, and are preparing to equip our students with the skills and on-the-job learning opportunities that will fill that demand and grow Washington state’s economy.
At NEWTECH Skill Center in Spokane, we are working to prepare our trades students to fill the high demand for skilled labor in Eastern Washington that is recognized by the Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council. We provide our Construction and Welding students ready to participate in worksite learning before graduation and enter an apprenticeship immediately thereafter with a first year Pre-Apprenticeship program that combines 21st Century employability skills, trades skills, and certifications. The average age of an apprentice in Spokane County is 27, but through these opportunities, we are hoping to make a significant impact on that statistic and drop it to 18 or 19 years old.
“Students must show their ability to work cooperatively with others, problem solve, and display leadership and responsibility”
While in the program, students are perfecting various skills that will ensure they are ready to apply for their chosen apprenticeship after leaving NEWTECH by being able to appropriately fill out an application, submit a resume, and competently interview with the local apprenticeship organizations. In addition to those skills, students must show their ability to work cooperatively with others, problem solve, and display leadership and responsibility. Currently, the NEWTECH Construction program is working on rebuilding and remodeling a home for Inland Empire Residential Resources. While on the jobsite, students must demonstrate their ability to work as a team to solve problems that arise during the building process, as well as meet project deadlines. Many of our students are also enrolled in Americorps, a program that enables them to earn money to supplement supplies needed to be successful in their chosen apprenticeship, or pay for tuition at a trade school or college. These students work at the class’ project house three days a week, and are paid close to $5 an hour while on the jobsite.
Employers in Eastern Washington are experiencing a labor shortage and have come to NEWTECH for young, talented, certified students to fill positions in their companies. Welding and fabrication companies such as Wagstaff Inc. and Metals Fabrication Company have NEWTECH Welding students working in their businesses as paid interns during school hours for 16-20 hours a week. For our Construction students, the Associated General Contractors is working on creating a summer internship program for NEWTECH students who are currently juniors. These interns work as laborers, carpenters, and heavy equipment operators, and will be paid up to $14 an hour with the hours they work counted toward their official apprenticeship after graduation. In addition, NEWTECH has created working relationships with local general contractors such as Nordic Construction and Stoic Construction, to have our students employed as siders and framers in residential construction during non-school hours. These hours can be counted toward their official apprenticeship with Spokane Homebuilders Association. Students participating in these employment opportunities while still in high school – and experiencing success by meeting employer expectations and gaining monetary rewards – will be inspired to continue on their path toward trade careers.
“Students will be spending 1-3 days at their chosen apprenticeship site to participate in a hands-on skill class to gain more insight into what a day in the life of an apprentice looks like”
Between the months of October and March, apprenticeship coordinators have visited NEWTECH’s classroom on a weekly basis to help educate program participants on entrance requirements, technical skills needed, and pay and benefits. In April and May, students will be spending 1-3 days at their chosen apprenticeship site to participate in a hands-on skill class to gain more insight into what a day in the life of an apprentice looks like. The desired outcome is that our students will be confident in their chosen career path, and pursue it immediately after graduation. With Governor Inslee’s grant to Career Connect Washington, Youth Apprenticeships will hopefully be expanded to opportunities with all trades. A future goal is that with the support of the community and the instructors at NEWTECH, our Welding and Construction students will begin their apprenticeship training before leaving high school, directing them on a successful path for early career growth and continued stable employment.
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