ARLINGTON – Sometimes with so much emphasis placed on going to college, it’s easy to forget that students can learn a trade in a fraction of the time and be making money by the time their college-bound friends are just being handed their degrees.
To remind students that the trades and vocational career paths can be just as fulfilling for the hands-on generation, Trade UP gave students an interactive opportunity to gain hands-on experience with various trades in Snohomish County.
In a grassy field north of the Arlington Airport Office, about four dozen high school juniors and seniors broke into teams, visited several exhibitors and participated in activities ranging from getting in the driver’s seat of Community Transit and UPS vehicles to operating a crane through a simulation, and taking a jackhammer to a chunk of concrete. Students also had a chance to handle tools of the trade and talk with professionals in the field – learning about wages, benefits and career pathways April 4.
Paul Aboa, a Cascade High School senior, said he thought it was important to attend the event to see what’s out there. “I came to learn more about the trade jobs,” he said. “The schools don’t talk about them as much, and the ways I can go in life.” Aboa learned about several options, but said he’s interested in driving a CT bus.
Kellen O’ Connell is a homeschool student in Everett. He wanted to learn more about the construction trades and apprenticeships. O’Connell had started taking an interest in carpentry helping his dad build half of their house.
Trade Up supporters said the event is about getting students interested and motivated to pursue a career they enjoy and want to master, and making sure they know in advance the growing career options available to them.
Stanwood Mayor Leonard Kelley pitched the ideas for Trade Up when he was secretary-treasurer of the Snohomish County Labor Council, and he worked with Workforce Snohomish County to pull it off. He also had help from his connections with union skills training programs and people who were willing to share their knowledge with teens who will be entering the workforce.
“Being able to experience what it’s like to be up close and personal with transit equipment, operating a crane through simulation or exploring a fire truck may be all it takes for a teen to begin thinking about a potential career within the trades,” Kelley said in a news release.
Robert Howard, a retired building inspector, and the building inspector’s apprenticeship hosted students at a house interior wall display, with one half constructed as a good example of how to build and wire a home, the other side riddled with mistakes. An electrical fuse panel box on the bad side had stray wiring and poorly installed pipes.
Howard thanked the Arlington Planning and Building Department in the Airport Office for setting up the display.“The display is all about the importance of safety,” Howard said. “Electrical and fire mistakes will kill you.”
Howard said they addressed safety concerns not just from a contractor’s perspective, but from the building inspector’s point of view. With home building activity on the rise, that means home inspections are also climbing, so either direction offers plenty of options for employment.
“When we do these kind of presentations with students, we usually see two out of five or six students that seem interested.”