ARLINGTON — Arlington High School senior Nicole McGowan got a broader perspective on the careers that are out there when Arlington firefighter Ian Phipps helped her operate a firehose at the Arlington Airport April 5.
“I’ve been leaning toward environmental engineering, but I’m still open to other possibilities,” Nicole said. “I like being outdoors and out in the field, and not doing the same thing every day. So I can see the appeal of being a firefighter. There’s a lot of risk, but that’s part of what makes it a cool job.”
On the same grassy field, fellow Arlingtonian Andrew Byrum, a sophomore, operated a jackhammer under the supervision of Northwest Laborers-Employers.
“I was thinking about the military,” Andrew said, before laughing, “I like destroying stuff. But this has opened my mind to other opportunities.”
Andrew was especially receptive to what Sgt. Michael Boe of the Teamsters Local 117 with the Department of Corrections had to say about apprenticeships.
“Rather than living in mom’s basement and flipping burgers for minimum wage, these kids could be getting paid to learn a trade,” Boe said. “Some of the other instructors here are only a few years away from retirement, so we need young people who can take their jobs.”
Erin Monroe, president and CEO of Workforce Snohomish, explained that she and Stanwood Mayor Leonard Kelley worked with the Snohomish County Labor Council to start the “Trade UP” event for ages 16-18. It provides more hands-on experience and “soft skills” for high schoolers getting ready to enter the job market.
“What are soft skills? Things like showing up on time and filling out time sheets,” Monroe said. “These are the skills that employers say need to be emphasized, so as we expose these students to various jobs in the trade sector, we have them fill out forms, and clock in and out.”
Participating students even receive “earnings,” in the form of gift cards. But as they circulated through different stations set up by Stanwood Redi-Mix, UPS, PUD and Community Transit, they seemed to enjoy the experience. They learned how to operate buses, crane trucks, UPC scanners and cement mixers.
Oso’s Dirk Blacker already plans to attend the Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center in Everett to become a diesel mechanic. The high school senior received good news about his job at Trade UP.
“Most of these companies are looking for mechanics, drivers and operators, so my prospects are looking good,” Blacker said.
Ian Turner, a senior at Marysville Arts & Technology High School, appreciated how much the event helped him narrow the fields he’s interested in.
“It’s given me a better sense of which jobs will give me wages I can live on, so I don’t have to live with roommates for the rest of my life,” Ian said. “This is a really fun event that’s somehow never more than half-full.”
After last September, this marked Trade UP’s second visit to Arlington, drawing more than two dozen students.
The next Trade UP is slated for April 12 at the skills center, but Monroe said she would love to offer an extended version over the summer, offering credits and lasting multiple weeks.