March 24, 2005
Construction training program boosts Rainier Valley
By RHONDA SIMMONS
Seattle Jobs Initiative
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration, the construction industry faces a growing shortage of qualified workers. Employers are facing an aging workforce, and those seeking to enter the industry often lack necessary skills for the job. This may prove especially problematic for Seattle-area employers in the construction industry, as large public works projects are commencing or are expected to begin over the next decade.
Seattle Jobs Initiative's own research confirms this projection: allowing for seasonal patterns of expansion and contraction, there was an overall growth in the construction industry in 2004 that should continue over the next few years.
"With Sound Transit, the Monorail, Sea-Tac and Brightwater either under way or in the planning stages, there's sort of a perfect storm approaching," said Mark Maher, apprenticeship program and training director of Cement Masons Local 528. "I think a lot of employers in the construction industry are wondering how all of these projects will affect their supply of qualified employees."
Jobs for the communitiy
The Rainier Valley Community Development Fund and Seattle Jobs Initiative have teamed up to avert this labor market storm by launching pre-apprenticeship training for the construction industry. The training program is part of the Community Development Fund, which was set aside by the city of Seattle to help create economic opportunities for individuals and businesses in Rainier Valley.
Seattle Jobs Initiative, with its employment and job training background, was appointed by the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund to oversee the pre-apprenticeship program.
Seattle Jobs Initiative has awarded contracts to two teams of community-based organizations, who will carry out the recruitment, assessment, case management, job training and placement. The teams are led by Center for Career Alternatives and TRAC Associates. Team members include 10 other Rainier Valley agencies plus educational partners Renton Technical College, South Seattle Community College's Duwamish Training Center, and Seattle Vocational Institute.
Pre-apprenticeship training will mimic the actual environment of a typical construction job. Participants will be trained in basic hand tool and power tool operations, industrial safety, worker rights and responsibilities, strength building, trades math, construction safety, basic blueprint reading, and hazardous material handling. In the process, students will be exposed to many different trades, including electrical, iron and cement masonry.
In the first 14-month phase of the program, Seattle Jobs Initiative and its contractors intend to place 64 individuals in construction-related jobs.
Through the pre-apprenticeship program, Seattle Jobs Initiative seeks to give employers access to a diverse, qualified applicant base, and to give low-income individuals access to livable-wage jobs. The nonprofit organization's goal is that this program, specifically designed for residents of Rainier Valley, will eventually be expanded to other low-income communities, and will continue to strengthen the construction industry's training and recruitment process.
Value for all
Employers facing an increasingly tight labor market are finding that pre-apprenticeship programs are a valuable way to find qualified employees. Geographical and social factors are playing a role in the growing popularity of these programs as well, making them equally attractive to job seekers.
"Training for the construction industries has changed," said Lee Nugent, apprenticeship coordinator for Ironworkers Local 86. "The K-12 system has eliminated their shop training, so pre-apprenticeship training is crucial.
"City kids are noticing the higher wages and are wanting to get into the construction trades, but have little to no experience working with their hands," he said. "Pre-apprenticeship programs give them skills so they're put on a level playing ground with those from more rural areas."
The pre-apprenticeship program will be modeled after Seattle Jobs Initiative's successful training and employment programs in office occupations and the manufacturing field. For the last eight years, Seattle Jobs Initiative has offered short-term, industry-specific training programs for low-income residents of Seattle, and has partnered with local employers to develop internships and jobs that pay livable wages.
"For somebody who hasn't had a full-time, manual labor-type job, this kind of training is extremely important," said Molly Cicotte, a graduate of Seattle Jobs Initiative's manufacturing program, who is a welder at Genie Industries in Redmond. "Not only do they teach you how to weld, but they teach you job etiquette that's specific to the workplace environment that you're entering. Without this opportunity, I would not be where I am today."
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