Jacob Smithies takes a selfie as fellow teens try out various tools on a concrete block during the Trade UP event at the Arlington Airport on Tuesday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Pros teach high-schoolers career options other than college

ARLINGTON — Jake Morgan handed 17-year-old Jacob Stetson the shotgun stick, a bright orange tool used for working on utility poles, and, with a firm jerk, showed him how to disconnect electricity during repairs.

Then Stetson tried on the heavy gloves used by Morgan and other Snohomish County PUD linemen. He tried to wrestle a nut off of a metal part, struggling through the thick fabric.

“It really slows you down,” said Stetson, a home-schooled student who lives near Kayak Point.

“You get used to it,” Morgan told him.

Not far away on the open lawn near the Arlington Municipal Airport, two teens held a fire hose, sending a powerful stream of water over a chainlink fence and onto the airport’s pavement. Firefighters from Arlington and North County Fire supervised.

“Don’t let go of it,” a firefighter warned, hurrying to wrangle the hose as one young man stepped back. “Never let go.”

Around the yard, there was a cement mixing truck, a long semi-truck with a blaring horn, a Community Transit bus, a UPS truck and several displays where teens could try jackhammering a concrete block or hammering at a wooden frame.

The Trade UP event in Arlington brought students together to listen to men and women talk about their jobs and options after high school. The program started about two and a half years ago and has grown, with more students and new presenters.

Stanwood Mayor Leonard Kelley helps organize Trade UP, which is put on by Workforce Snohomish, the Snohomish County Labor Council and United Way of Snohomish County.

Professionals on Tuesday talked about their experience and jobs in bus driving, carpentry, construction, aerospace manufacturing, firefighting and building inspection.

“There’s a demand for these jobs, and more expected with the growth in Snohomish County,” Kelley said. “We’re going to need more construction workers, more bus drivers. We need more building inspectors now.”

About 50 students signed up for the event, which would have been nearly double last year’s turn-out. Only about 30 showed up. Most took time out of spring break to be there.

Robert Howard, a retired building inspector, showed students the interiors of two walls. One had a tangle of wires and haphazard pipes and insulation, while the other was neat and well-assembled. One student noted that the bad wall looked like one at her old house.

Howard talked about the need for inspectors during building booms. There’s pressure on builders to finish houses quickly. Inspectors offer a less hurried pair of eyes, he said.

“You could be saving someone’s life,” Howard said. “You might never meet them, but if you don’t see that address you were at last week on the news, you’ve done your job.”

Rylee Byrnes, 18, is a senior at Crossroads High School in Granite Falls. Though she hopes to make a living as a children’s pastor, she wants to know all of her options. She came prepared in jeans, work shoes and a warm red flannel, a ball cap on her head and a hardhat under her arm.

She was interested in building inspection and carpentry, she said, but most looked forward to spraying the fire hose.

Byrnes noticed that the presenters supported women getting into trades that traditionally have been male-dominated.

“A lot of these jobs, girls can do them, too,” she said.

Many programs are trying to attract a more diverse group of trainees, said Julie Mainstone, apprenticeship administrator with the PUD.

Some students know by high school that college isn’t for them, said Morgan, one of two linemen who talked with the teens. He was one of those kids.

“There are a lot of other options,” he said. “You have to be willing to do work, hard work, but you can make a good living for your family.”

Morgan and Jeff Finch apprenticed with the PUD for three and a half years before becoming journeymen. Finch donned climbing gear and made his way up a utility pole to show students how to get up when a bucket truck can’t be parked nearby. Morgan talked about the importance of safety on the job.

Stetson enjoyed the PUD presentation. He liked that he could ask as many questions as he wanted. He’s considering a career as an electrician, he said.

“I don’t want to go to college,” he said. “One of the apprenticeship programs like they talked about would be better for me.”

Another Trade UP event is planned in Marysville later this month.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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