Jessica Eames, left, tries out equipment instructed by Justin Martin, right, during a trade show at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, Washington on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. High school students learned about a variety of trades at the event. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
MONROE – Jose Lopez, a senior at Sultan High School, isn’t sure if he’s going to college, at least not right away.
“College is great, but I’ve been looking at how much you can go into debt,” said the 18-year-old.
Looking for alternatives, Lopez took part in Trade Up last week, where juniors and seniors of high school can learn about apprenticeships and job opportunities from local businesses, unions and utilities. Of course there was the equipment on display – from metal engraving machines to ‘the Claw’, a red Kubota KX057 excavator with a fire truck.
Lopez left the event with some new leads. Neighborhood transport mechanic. Apprentice cement mason or plasterer, earning $30 per hour from day one.
“The pay looks good,” Lopez said.
“Until they learn about these jobs — and the wages they can earn — they have no idea how many careers are available to them,” said Charlotte Murry, secretary-treasurer of the Snohomish & Island County Labor Council. The Labor Council and Workforce Snohomish sponsored the event, which was first held in 2014.
This year marked the first regional Trade Up event, attended by students from five school districts in eastern Snohomish County. In the past, it was offered to one school district at a time. The new format reaches more students and makes it easier for exhibitors to participate, Murry said.
About 200 students from the Sultan, Gold Bar, Monroe, Snohomish and Granite Falls school districts attended Trade Up, which was held at the Livestock Pavilion of the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe.
Exhibitors include the PUD, Snohomish County Public Works, Community Transit, International Union of Operating Engineers, Machinists Institute, the Cement Masons & Plasterers Union, and AJAC Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeships, a nonprofit training organization.
Students who visited all exhibitor stations and completed a “time card” received a $10 Fred Meyer gift card.
“Always a hit,” Murry said.
For students unsure of which route to take after high school, Trade Up offers a chance to explore the professions and get a sense of what their pay, benefits, and work day might look like and take home a perk .
In Washington, high school students are required to have a High School and Beyond Plan in order to graduate. It is a state requirement designed to guide their high school experience and prepare them for college, training and career. Trade Up events can help make that plan, the organizers said.
For Jessica Eames, a senior at Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish who hopes to become a mechanical engineer, the event allowed her to “look at the machine side,” she said.
“If I were working as an engineer, I would need to know how the machines work,” says 18-year-old Eames, who took a spin on the excavator’s controls—”the claw.”
Not everyone is college bound. A year of tuition and expenses at a public university now average $30,000 or more per year, while private colleges can cost $50,000 or more per year, according to CollegeData.com.
“You can pay for college or you can take a paying job and make $30 an hour right out of high school,” Justin Palachuck, business agent at the Cement Masons and Plasterers Union Local 528, told students. Eligibility for an internship includes possession of a high school diploma or GED and a valid driver’s license.
And completing an internship doesn’t mean college goes off the table, said Palachuk, who completed an internship when he was 21 and then went to college and graduated at age 30.
Union internships are usually tuition-free. Students with a state-registered learning program can receive a 50% tuition waiver at a Washington community or technical college. Most internships last two to five years.
The professions are women- and BIPOC-friendly, Michelene Felker told students.
Felker is the Director of Student Services for the Machinists Institute, a non-profit training center established by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District 751.
The Machinists Institute offers training in manufacturing, automotive and aerospace. Often there is no cost for training, Felker said. In July, the institute offers a pre-apprenticeship course for women.
The institute, based in Tukwila, plans to begin offering training in Everett next year, Felker said.
A Trade Up event in North Snohomish County, covering the Marysville, Arlington, Stanwood and Camano school districts, is scheduled for the fall. There are also plans for a school that would serve the Coupeville, Oak Harbor and South Whidbey school districts, Murry said.
For more information on Apprenticeships, please visit the Apprenticeship Registration Tracking System (ARTS). The database lists all registered Washington internship programs (you can also search by county) and the requirements for each.
Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; firstname.lastname@example.org;