A booming Pacific Northwest economy comes with many benefits, but for the construction and manufacturing industries, being busy all the time has often led to shortages of skilled trades workers.
Jerry Bush, president and CEO of University Mechanical Contractors in Mukilteo, has concerns about the challenge his company will soon face around replacing workers who are now approaching retirement.
“At this point, I think the attrition in our business is going to far outweigh the number of new people coming in,” he says. “I think the opportunities that exist in the trades, with family-supporting wages and now, good benefits, are largely undersung because of the emphasis we place today on going to college.”
While college is the right choice for some young people, Bush says, the ability for others to avoid a large student loan, earn a good living wage as they train, and take advantage of apprenticeship opportunities can drive the local economy even further.
Sno-Isle TECH offers exposure to trades
Sno-Isle TECH is a unique public school in Everett offering high school students not only trades training, but specialized classes in everything from culinary and beautician work to dental and medical assistant training, computer animation and video game design.
Bush likes Sno-Isle’s trades training option for a couple of reasons. Not only does it expose young people to a variety of careers – “shop classes in many high schools have largely gone away,” he says – it’s attracting more young women to the trades, which will help diversify the future workforce, he says.
Variety of career options available
With construction and manufacturing increasingly technology-driven, there are more jobs that don’t require working in the rain for six months of the year, including many requiring computer or data analysis skills, Bush notes. Although there will always be a need for physical outside workers, he says, great options are available for people willing to pay their dues at the start and work into a very good career.
Candidate looking for long-term solutions
“I can’t think of a recent candidate for any political position that has put an emphasis on this, I think it’s awesome,” he says of Snohomish County Council District 2 candidate Anna Rohrbough’s focus on the need for increased trades training.
“We’re right next door to Boeing and we want to maintain our position here in the Northwest as the place to build airplanes,” Bush adds. “I think it’s great that Anna has put this at the forefront. It’s refreshing and could go a long way toward helping solve or at least address the issues facing the future of our workforce.”
Rohrbough points out that Snohomish County is rich in manufacturing, industrial and aerospace industries. As such, she says, “I am committed to strengthening our viable workforce by bridging the gaps through connected pathways to education.”
The creation of another Sno-isle Tech center, or an equivalent, would give more real options to area youth, she adds. “I would like to offer the same trade-based opportunities for those transitioning out of one trade or back into the workforce themselves. Creating more opportunities to provide and contribute to our community promotes a feeling of pride and belonging. This is essential to future of our county.”
PDC – Paid for by the Campaign to Elect Anna (R). For more information electanna.com