News

Pizza and jobs

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

The trick to get 50 middle schoolers in one place?

Pizza.

Many of the students visiting Thomas Jefferson High School Feb. 10 were thinking more long-term than about lunch, though. They wanted to know about jobs in the professional trades and a district program that could prepare them to become apprentice carpenters, plumbers, pipe fitters and electricians.

“It’s a good way to start life off with an apprenticeship,” Dezirae Hagberg, a freshman at Jefferson, said of the high school’s Construction Apprencticeship Preparation Program (CAPP).

Started last school year at Jefferson, CAPP is meant as an alternative for students who may not want to attend college.

Federal Way School Board member Charles Hoff has been an advocate for the program and an automotive technician program at Federal Way High. He urged the middle school students to consider a career in the trades as an option to college noting they would be paid while they were trained.

“Harvard won’t pay you to go there,” Hoff said.

Larry Walters, apprenticeship coordinator for the northwest division of the Laborer’s International Union of North America, said 8,800 laborers will be needed by June in King and Snohomish counties.

The trades have a trickle of new employees to fill the gush of retiring ones. Other professions in the country –– including nursing and law enforcement –– are facing the same problem.

Even the apprentices are older, Walters noted. The average person becoming an apprentice is in their mid-30s.

Despite having a college degree, being an officer in the National Guard and working a white-collar job in social work, Denise Salo couldn’t afford a house in the Seattle area. She said she became an apprentice electrician and had the income in her second year to purchase a home. Now she works for Sound Transit as a labor relations specialist.

Her employer will need more workers in the trades in about five years –– just as the students she was speaking to would graduate. A trade doesn’t limit someone to just one sort of job, she told the students. They can get in and train in several areas based on their determination and interest.

“There’s lots of different avenues,” Salo said.

More women are getting into the trades, noted Carol O’Neill of Washington Women in Trades.

Colby Gray, an eighth-grader at Kilo Middle School, said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and start a construction company. Growing up around construction, Gray felt it was a natural fit and he would have an advantage over other apprentices.

Gray and Hagberg said the trade skills would help them if they decided to go to college. Both students are contemplating architecture.

Training students for a career path that might not involve college has grabbed the attention of at least one state legislator from Federal Way. Rep. Skip Priest recently had legislation pass in the House that would give students alternatives to the state’s assessment test to graduate. The bill, if it becomes law, would still require students to pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) to graduate, but would allow them train them in another area should they not pass the WASL.

To get their high school diplomas in 2008, this year’s sophomores must pass three sections of the WASL –– math, reading and writing. They have multiple opportunities to re-take the test in sections they don’t pass before graduating.

A bill in the state Senate to study WASL alternatives for two years was supported by several groups that wanted to either keep the exam as a graduation requirement or make it strictly a test.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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