How Apprenticeship Programs can Partner with Washington State Colleges

“Seek opportunities to support workers beyond their apprenticeship” - teacher pointing at equipment with apprentice watching

Colleges want to help their students find good jobs. Employers looking to fill good jobs need help finding and training qualified candidates. So some have set up apprenticeships as part of the onboarding process.  They often rely on trade groups and unions for training their apprentices.  One active group in Washington is the Northwest Carpenters Institute (NWCI).

Paula Resa is a Pre-Apprenticeship Coordinator for NWCI, which is funded by organized labor and employer member companies.  She recently took the time to share her experience with and perspectives on partnering with colleges. NWCI operates training centers in Kent, Kennewick, Spokane, Renton, and Mount Vernon.  Separately, Renton Tech College also provides space for NWCI training. 

Ms. Resa says that their apprentices typically complete a 4-year program and attend school in 4 classes per year. Career choices include: carpenter, millwright, pile driver, scaffold erector and drywall finisher.  Apprentices attend training during the week and receive unemployment benefits, while journeyman training for more experienced apprentices occurs on evenings and weekends.

“Collaboration is key to supporting legislative initiatives and public education about apprenticeship”

NWCI partners with colleges to conduct outreach events and conferences to spread the word about available apprenticeships.  One such event was the Pacific Northwest Apprenticeship Education Conference held in December 2018, where staff participated in a panel discussion.  Currently, NWCI is working with Renton Tech College and Central Washington University on the Lt. Governor’s Task Force to create an online degree program for apprentices wishing to get a 4-year degree in Project Management.

NWCI partners with colleges to conduct outreach events and conferences to spread the word about available apprenticeships.  One such event was the Pacific Northwest Apprenticeship Education Conference held in December 2018, where staff participated in a panel discussion.  Currently, NWCI is working with Renton Tech College and Central Washington University on the Lt. Governor’s Task Force to create an online degree program for apprentices wishing to get a 4-year degree in Project Management.

“Lets crack the code and help apprentices complete their AA degree!” - photo of woman looking at computer and biting pencil

Marysville School District’s Regional Apprenticeship Pathway program or RAP is a joint project with Everett Community College to create a high school devoted to preparing students for apprenticeships.  Its pilot project will welcome its first 10 students in September.  At a school board meeting in early June, NWCI and others presented information on building “community muscle” this way, through an advanced program in the trades where North Country high school students can earn college credentials and get fast-tracked to an apprenticeship.

Paula Resa explained that NWCI also collaborates with college administrators on supportive legislative initiatives and public education more broadly, such as a website powered by the Apprenticeship Council of the state employment office.  State law determines such things as allocation of full-time equivalency or FTE funding for staffing and hiring.  Colleges review NWCI’s programs and assign college credits for them, also offering online classes for apprentices to complete their Associate’s degree.

Paula gave kudos to the Center of Excellence for being very supportive of NWCI’s program and the apprenticeship model in general.  She noted the importance of supporting legislators that believe in ‘prevailing wage’ and how it can bring a community out of poverty.  She indicated that NWCI offers training facility tours for COE students.

Conferences and seminars connect your registered apprenticeship program to the state’s community colleges.

When Ms. Resa was asked how colleges could support apprenticeship programs even more, she suggested “cracking the code” on convincing more apprentices to take the 4 remaining college classes they need to complete their AA degree.  Common excuses include the time and monetary expense of long commutes and a general aversion to academic classrooms. 

Paula’s own personal experience as a single mom working in construction made her realize that despite the extra effort to attend classes, earning her degree was worth it and has served her well in her career. Perhaps colleges could better market their technical degree programs and courses to both young people and mid-career adults as way more engaging, practical and directly useful in the ‘real life’ working world than most of what they remember from their traditional K-12 classroom environment.

HELPFUL RESOURCES

The Northwest Carpenter’s Institute of Washington (NWCL)

The Marysville School District’s Regional Apprenticeship Pathway program

 
Ricardo Ibarra