MARYSVILLE — Early in high school, Wyatt Brickey knew that a four-year university was not in his future.
He had a hard time focusing in class and learned better by solving problems with his hands. He knew that someday he’d like to work in the trades.
“I just didn’t have an idea of how to get my foot in the door,” the Arlington High School senior said.
Brickey, 17, is now enrolled in the Regional Apprenticeship Pathways Program. The goal is to help teenagers learn trade skills while they earn a high school diploma, similar to the Everett-based Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center that provides instruction in many fields.
The program started at the beginning of this school year at Marysville Pilchuck High School, but is not limited to students at that school. Juniors and seniors throughout Snohomish County may apply.
Local leaders and others gathered Tuesday for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the program.
Brickey is one of 23 students enrolled in the course. They spend two and a half hours in the program each day. First they meet in the classroom where they study subjects such as math or leadership. Then, they apply what they’ve learned to hands-on projects.
Stanwood High School junior Bryce Bingham, 17, is also in the program, and hopes to someday become a welder.
“When I first started welding I was pretty good at it, and I really liked it,” he said. “On top of that I had a really supportive teacher who led me to this program.”
Brickey eventually wants to work as an elevator technician. Both boys would recommend the program to other students.
“I’ve always wanted something that’s not like traditional schooling, and this is exactly what I wanted,” Brickey said.
Typically, people who work in the trades begin in their late 20s, program director Anne Carnell said.
That’s because many graduate high school without knowing their next steps, and work jobs that don’t necessarily provide a steady income.
“So then they end up looking at the trades, and by that time they’ve lost all those years of experience and pension and pay,” Carnell said. “So the advantage of this program is it gives kids experience so they can be informed decision makers, of ‘Do I really like the trades? Is this something I want to go into?’”
Students earn college credits while completing the program, and get to work with professionals already in the workforce. That gives them an advantage when they start to apply for apprenticeship positions that lead to jobs.
For now, no young women are enrolled in the program. Carnell hopes to change that.
At the end of the month, 30 girls have been invited to the school to meet with women who work in the trades and to learn more about the course.
Carnell also expects the program to grow in time, and next year hopes to enroll 100 students.
Plans for the program were initiated when Snohomish County Councilman Nate Nehring heard repeatedly from labor organizations and local government that the workforce around Snohomish County needed a boost. He got those groups together to brainstorm ways to fix it.
“Kind of organically they developed this idea that we’re really missing this pipeline where students can go directly from high school into an apprenticeship,” Nehring said.
Nehring and his team brought a request for funding to the Legislature, and with the help of state Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, it passed. Because of that, the program is set to receive $1.5 million from the state operating budget over two years.
Along with that money, the county has contributed $200,000 for startup costs and Sound Transit provided $150,000 for equipment. Everett Community College also has donated staff time, and the Marysville School District has supplied the class space.
On Tuesday, dozens of adults packed into the program’s future workshop, where students have been working hard to spruce it up.
So far they’ve taken down walls and ripped out carpet to reveal a concrete floor. It’s in a small building on the northern edge of campus.
After a few speeches, students invited the crowd to check out their projects in another classroom. One was a picnic table that folded into two benches. Another was a large lawn chair. Smells of fresh cut wood were in the air.