Published Wednesday, April 6, 2018 in the Everett Herald
By Kari Bray
ARLINGTON — Lunch arrived at 11:30 a.m. and 28 teens in bright yellow safety vests filed into the break room.
They set their hard hats on the tables and tucked into plates of enchiladas, rice and beans.
The meal marked the halfway point in a day of job sampling. The teens sprayed a firehose across a field, chipped away at a cement block with a pavement breaker, poured cement from a cement truck and sat in the driver's seat of a Community Transit bus. They also handled packages in the back of a UPS truck and learned how to connect and disconnect power lines on a replica of the top of a utility pole.
Students between the ages of 16 and 18 came from around the county to Tuesday's Trade UP event at the Arlington Municipal Airport. It was the second Trade UP event ever in Snohomish County and the first of two happening this month. The next one is at the Sno-Isle Skills Center in Everett on April 12. It's full, said Erin Monroe, president of Workforce Snohomish. They're expecting about 60 students.
Stanwood Mayor Leonard Kelley came up with the idea for Trade UP and worked with Workforce Snohomish, the Snohomish County Labor Council and local businesses to put it together.
“College isn't for everyone,” he said. “We need to find a way to reach these kids.”
Their eyes light up when they use a power tool or firehose, Monroe said.
“One thing I love about this is it allows kids to have a hands-on experience in a very brief way,” she said. “Unlike a career fair where you get handed a brochure, here you get handed a jackhammer.”
Students were divided into groups of four to six and went around to six stations, spending about 40 minutes at each. The stations had equipment and trainers from Community Transit, North County Fire & EMS, Snohomish PUD, Stanwood Redi-Mix, UPS and the Northwest Laborers-Employers Training and Apprenticeship Program.
The teens filled out timecards and weren't allowed to use cellphones except for taking photos for a contest. They earned up to $50 on a Fred Meyer gift card and received a certificate of completion with the names of organizations they'd trained with.
Quincey Risner, a 17-year-old Stanwood High School student, gave up a day of his spring break for Trade UP. His favorite stop of the morning was Community Transit and he was excited for the PUD in the afternoon.
Risner came to the first Trade UP in September and offered advice for newcomers: “Pay attention and learn as much as you can because this could be one of your future jobs.”
Daniel Williams, a 17-year-old at ACES High School, said the most important thing is to have fun. He was impressed by the switches and gizmos on the Community Transit bus and by the size of UPS.
Trainer Lewis Marles has been a bus driver for about a year and a half. He showed students the view from the driver's seat. He wants them to know they have choices after high school.
“At this age, they don't really know what they want to do, so we just want to plant these options in their heads,” he said. “It's kind of forced on them that a college education is what you need to succeed in life, and college is good but I think it's important for them to know there are other options.”
Tawny Sayers, apprenticeship coordinator for the Northwest Laborers-Employers Training Trust, showed teens how to use power tools, including a pavement breaker, rotary hammer and reciprocating saw.
“They get excited about the fact that they can actually use the tools, especially the girls,” Sayers said. “They think it's for the guys, but they can do the same work and get the same pay.”
The average age of someone entering an apprentice program is 28, she said. Most people aren't told about apprenticeships before they graduate high school.
That doesn't mean kids aren't thinking about jobs. Austin Wescott, a 16-year-old Mountlake Terrace High School student, already is looking for one. He'd like to start working by this summer. It seemed like a good idea to go to Trade UP and learn about jobs, he said.
Ian Turner, a 17-year-old at Marysville Arts and Technology High School, plans to come back if there's another event. He wishes more students knew about it
“Usually only about half of the people who could be here show up,” he said.
Kelley rallied the students after lunch. They gathered in a loose circle to listen.
“One of the reasons it's called Trade UP is because as you get out of high school we want you thinking about this stuff,” he told them. “And instead of making $9.27 an hour somewhere, we want you to trade up.”
A two-day event is tentatively planned for late August. Kelley and Monroe are hoping for more trainers, new activities and lots of students.