It’s a good trade: You earn while you learn

MARYSVILLE – In the trade industry, “You earn while you learn.”

That’s one advantage the trades have over college, Jake Morgan, a Snohomish County Public Utility District lineman, said during a recent Trade Up fair at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

Employees from 10 trades talked with about 65 high school students from all over Marysville about how they do their jobs and the training they went through.

Morgan and fellow lineman Jon Kubat said apprentice candidates need only be 18 with a high school diploma or GED, plus have a clean driving record and be able to pass a math, English and spatial test that most already have learned.

In their training, they work during the day and attend school at night, making $37 an hour. Lineman top out at $50 an hour. They work Monday through Friday, but are on call. Morgan said he had 600 hours of overtime last year.

Alex Badger of Marysville Getchell said that is a “flashy hourly” wage, but Morgan admitted that is time away from the family.

Morgan said it’s a dangerous job – that’s why they always work in pairs.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” he said, adding sometimes they have to go as high as 200 feet. With a crane they can be hoisted most of the way, but they have to climb on their own the rest of the way. Because of safety regulations, they can’t fall off the pole.

“You might fall a couple of feet, but you’re not going to die,” he said.

But it’s been a good fit for Morgan.

“College was not for me,” he said. “It was hard for me to stay in high school all day.”

He said about 98 percent of the wires he and Kubat work on are live because “folks don’t like when you shut down their block” to electricity.

Morgan said they use a “hot stick” for up to 80 percent of their work.

“Anything we can do with our hands we can do with a stick,” he said, adding much of their three years of training deals with safety. They also wear “hot gloves” that can protect them up to 17,000 volts. Morgan said 120 volts “can kill you dead.”

Morgan said transformers aren’t what burst when there are power outages. It’s actually a circuit breaker.

“It’d be a rather impressive ball of fire” if a transformer blew, he said.

He warned the students to stay far away from downed power lines because electricity can jump. He also advised them not to drink or text while driving. That can lead to crashes that cause power outages.

“Most of the time you don’t walk away,” he said. “You at least will be missing a limb.”

At some of the other stations, Collin Thomas of M-P said he wants to be a diesel technician for Community Transit like his dad and uncle. Dubler Ambrocio of M-P said he liked the carpentry station.

“There’s so many choices,” said Miguel Guerrero, who said he was leaning toward being a dump truck driver.

Other stations included pipefitters, electricians, marine rescue, police SWAT truck and the fire department.

Debbie Gath of the Teamsters union said some of the boys don’t have dads so a lot of the tools are new to them.

“Some never held a drill or been on a backhoe. They are going to remember this for the rest of their lives,” she said.

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