FWHS program helps student and grad capture coveted apprenticeships

Starting with a $70k wage out of high school? It’s an impressive accomplishment for two Federal Way High students who, after participating in the school’s inaugural pre-apprenticeship program last year, have both earned entry into a King County sheet metal apprenticeship program offering a wage of $70,000 per year — plus benefits.

Federal Way High School students Colfax Alexander and Aaron Nelson were among the first cohort of students in the school’s pre-apprenticeship program, in which students can gain hands-on experience in the classroom practicing trades like electrical work. The classes are open to juniors and seniors.

Both Alexander and Nelson attended a sheet metal apprenticeship boot camp this summer, from which the top five students earned direct entry into actual apprenticeships. They both earned one of those coveted spots.

Alexander graduated last year and will be able to start this fall. Nelson, currently a senior at the school, received a letter of direct entry and will be able to start next year after he graduates.

“As an educator, it’s exciting,” said Charissa Eggleston, the facilitator of the College and Career Readiness and Career and Technical Education programs.

And for Alexander and Nelson to achieve those opportunities in the program’s first year is “inspiring to the other kids,” Eggleston said. Students might hear about the program and wonder if it’s really going to pay off for them.

“These two are showing that it really does happen,” Eggleston said.

They learned a lot from the program, Eggleston said. One lesson, for instance, was that for many employers 15 minutes early is late, and 30 minutes early is on time. So Alexander started catching a 3 a.m. bus to Everett for a six-week period in order to stay punctual at his program.

The pre-apprenticeship program brings skilled workers in the relevant industries into the classroom at Federal Way — either virtually or in person — to demonstrate how their job works and how students can prepare to do it too. It enters its second year this school year, and the program will feature partners from worksites and apprenticeship programs each month to show kids new skill sets, Eggleston said.

The program is state recognized, Eggleston said, so students can avoid the waiting list that many novices have to go through before getting their foot in the door in the trades industry.

Incoming juniors and seniors at Federal Way High can learn more about the program by talking to their school counselor or by emailing CCR@fwps.org. The classes are taught in three-hour blocks every other school day.