Alumni Colfax Alexander couldn’t attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for Federal Way High School’s Pre-Apprenticeship Program because he was working in the field of his trades job. This is the exact outcome the program aims to produce, with the help of additional funding from King County Council and the school’s new outdoor learning courtyard.
Elected officials, program leaders and students, and local trades workers gathered on Nov. 14 for the ceremony at Federal Way High School. The mid-November sunshine was beautiful and deceiving as the wind brought a definite chill to those in attendance.
“Our industry partners recommended that we make the pre-apprenticeship [program] a more authentic learning experience by building an authentic outdoor space for students to apply their new skills in the elements … they’ll be working in, in their future careers,” said Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Dani Pfeiffer. “The courtyard will do just that.”
The Pre-Apprenticeship Program (PAP) allows juniors and seniors to learn the ropes of various trades careers for additional options after graduation, as opposed to a more traditional college route. So far, the program focuses on carpentry, cement masonry, iron workers, electricians and pipe fitters.
On Tuesday, the King County Council approved its 2023-2024 biennium budget, which allocated $250,000 to Federal Way Public Schools pre-apprenticeship program.
Throughout the course of the year, students learn precision math, safety guidelines and requirements, and how to read blueprints, among many other skills. Their learning comes to life in projects with framing, drywall and wood work.
“In the past few years as a district, we’ve put more intention in sharing more post-secondary pathways that meet the in-demand career goals of our scholars,” she said.
On July 15, 2021, Federal Way High School’s Pre-Apprenticeship program was recognized by the Washington State Trades and Apprenticeship Council. Because of this, students who successfully complete the program have preferred entry into all trades.
The district offers free college credit through a dual-credit articulation agreement with Renton Technical College, and dual credit agreements with Green River College and Central Washington University are in progress.
Students can also earn industry-recognized credentials including OSHA 10, forklift, and flagger certifications, allowing them to graduate high school with their diploma, college credits and career-ready skills.
At the ribbon cutting, several students showed off their past projects, including a model dog house and electrical work.
“I’m excited to have a facility to work at, where we can get the kids outside in a covered environment,” said Larry DuFresne, the Pre-Apprenticeship Program teacher. “It’ll be nice to have an open space to work.”
The courtyard allows students the opportunity to work outside, but also provides space for bigger projects such as the tiny home construction planned for next year, DuFresne said. Tiny homes will be donated for use, but logistics and details have yet to be determined.
Though the program does have more male students than female, the program’s diversity is growing and the district is taking steps to recruit more female students into the program. DuFresne said young women are important to have in the trades and, “We want to foster that.”
“This is opportunity and access,” said State Rep. Jesse Johnson (D-Federal Way), who was a driving force behind the initial funding of the program. “This is about giving our young people an opportunity in our local economy to get these jobs … This is about getting our young people up-to-date and ready for the jobs of tomorrow.”
For more information on the Pre-Apprenticeship Program, visit fwps.org/PreApprenticeship.