Innovation in Pre-Apprenticeship
Trade-specific pre-apprenticeship programs brings Northwest Carpenters Union, Northwest Carpenters Institute, and contractors together to achieve a common goal: Opening the doors of apprenticeship to under-served communities.
“How it got started,” said Paula Resa, Pre-Apprentice Coordinator for NWCI, “was with a grant from Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and a partnership with ANEW (Apprenticeship & Non-Traditional Employment for Women). We contracted with ANEW for our first four classes in carpentry and held the classes at the ANEW facility in Kent.”
The success of those first four classes had the team at NWCI partnering with other organizations like Tacoma Work Source, Career Connect Washington, R3 Community Services, and Sound Transit. They also began seeking additional grants to continue supporting the program. NWCI wrote their own grant with WSDOT and received $375,000 to run eight more carpentry classes. NWCI Pre-Apprentices classes took place in Spokane, Yakima, Tacoma, Mount Vernon, Anacortes, Kent, DuPont, and Renton in 2019.
“The idea to create craft specific pre-apprentice training began to take shape during the pile driver caucus at a delegate meeting,” said Marianna Talbott, Pre-Apprenticeship and Outreach Specialist at NWCI. “We learned about all this upcoming work for pile drivers. I made a note of it and then circled back to a discussion with the idea for trade-specific pre-apprentice classes with Pre-Apprentice Coordinator Paula Resa, and pile drivers at the caucus: Jesse Scott-Kandoll, Ryan Hyke, and Jeff Thorson. I reached out to 7th and 8th-period pile driver apprentices and asked them what they would like to have known their first day on the job and tips for future apprentices.”
“From there,” Talbott continued, “we worked with several Union representatives, contractors from the Pile Drivers JATC, like American Construction and Manson Construction Co, to help identify what skill sets and knowledge were the most important for a first-year pile driver apprentice.”
“The idea got wings at Project Labor Agreement (PLA) and Community Workforce Agreement (CWA) pre-job meetings with pile driver contractors for large priority hire projects in downtown Seattle and King County,” said Jesse Scott-Kandoll, a union representative for the Northwest Carpenters Union. “We knew that contractor support was crucial to the success of the program. We reached out to contractors at every opportunity and discussed with them the advantage of having a skilled pool of first-period pile driver apprentices. They would be demographically diverse and have basic knowledge in the use of pile driver tools, terminology, and job site safety protocols, among other skills.”
“We created a lesson plan and then pitched the idea to Bob Susee, Executive Director of NWCI, the Pile Driver JATC Committee, and the pile driver training coordinator,” said Talbott. “Once we had their approval and support, we were able to refine the curriculum, tap into our instructors at NWCI, select candidates, and begin the training.”
John White is CEO of Antaeus Foundation Equipment, LLC, and the Corporate Director of Pile Driving Sales at PACO Ventures, the only union pile driving supplier in the world. He has taken his dedication to the craft to new levels, producing pile driving training videos and teaching in person at the pre-apprenticeship classes at NWCI’s Kent facility. “I take requests for training videos from union members on practices they want to know about,” he said. “In the pre-apprentice class, we cover the history of the craft and discuss the types of equipment, vocabulary, and terms used in the industry.”
“Of that first class of eight pile drivers, upon completion of the program, all of them interviewed with contractors and went to work right away,” said Kandoll. “We keep in touch with the program graduates to make sure they are successful on their job sites. We check in with the employers too.”
Todd Hassing is the General Superintendent for Kraemer North America, a 110-year-old Heavy Civil Contractor that specializes in moveable bridgework. They are currently working on the emergency repairs to the West Seattle High Rise Bridge, the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge, and other projects around the Northwest. Hassing learned about NWCI’s pre-apprentice program through a Building Trades meeting.
“When we work under a Community Workforce Agreement, we are required to exercise priority hiring,” said Hassing. “When we get somebody like Cory Green (see below) who works hard and is genuinely interested in a career in construction, we can help him grow in his craft and form good working and safety habits.”
“Construction work is not for everyone. For people who can do the hard work, and who have the drive to succeed in construction, we can help set them up for a great career and hang on to them as steady hands,” continued Hassing. “It makes for one hell of a team, and that benefits the client, the company, and our employees.”
Back at NWCI, Talbott, Resa, and Kandoll’s persistence paid off. Employers were not only interested but wanted to know how they could play a more significant role. Consequently, several union contractors volunteered to work with NWCI’s Pre-Apprentice Program.
What is Priority Hire?
Priority Hire is usually associated with a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) or a Community Workforce Agreement (CWA). It means that veterans, people of color, women, and community members in distressed zip codes near the job have opportunities for direct entry into an apprenticeship through pre-apprenticeship programs like the one at NWCI or ANEW.
Casey Blake heads up Field Operations for BNBuilders. “Pre-apprenticeship gives applicants an overview and a sense of value about what apprenticeship will bring to them,” said Blake. “It helps those individuals prepare for being an apprentice, present themselves for employment, and realize the possibilities of a career in construction.
“BNB engaged our self-perform management group to participate in mock interview training while others have reviewed curriculum, and provided information on how to be employable,” Blake continued. “When we offer a successful pre-apprentice graduate employment as a first-period apprentice, we partner them with journeymen who have the experience to continue their training on the job.”
Cory Green, Pre-Apprentice Graduate
“I found out about the pre-apprenticeship program from a buddy who is a carpenter apprentice. He found out about apprenticeship from Lisa Marx,” said Cory Green, Member LU 196 and 1st-period piledriver apprentice who recently graduated from the pile driver pre-apprentice program. “Before that, I was an arborist, so quite a change in careers for me.”
“We started the class before the pandemic, and when we came back to complete the class, it was a whole different experience,” Green recalled. “The instructor, Roger Johanson, LU 196, just had us go with the flow, teaching in the pandemic was as new to him as learning in it was for us.”
Cory is currently working for Kraemer North America on the Northgate Pedestrian Overpass project.
“This is my first union job,” Green said, “I’m learning a lot from the journeyman I’m working with.”
“I could use a good pair of waders on this job,” Cory quipped, “but I’m embracing all the opportunities that come my way and looking forward to the training, excellent benefits for my family, and the stability of a career as a union pile driver.”
The success of the pre-apprentice program and pile driver pre-apprentice program spread among contractors and sub-contractors. That spurred another brainstorm by the NWCI team to create other trade-specific pre-apprentice classes. An Exterior/Interior Systems (EIS) class will be offered in September focused on drywall and metal stud framing. Exterior/Interior systems contractors are ready to hire graduates of this class.
This pre-apprenticeship training model exemplifies part of the purpose behind PLAs and CWAs: creating work opportunities, training, and career paths with family wages and benefits for members of the communities where work is happening.
Even with the emergence of COVID-19, this dynamic program has continued to grow and thrive as likely candidates for the program, often from these under-served communities, are trained and then matched up with employers that are ready and willing to hire and continue to teach these empowered graduates.
“With the growing popularity of Pre-Apprentice programs and Career Connections in high schools, one of the end results is a younger workforce that chooses the trades as a career path while still in high school,” noted Bob Susee, NWCI’s Executive Director. “The UBC and the PNWRCC believe in and support this endeavor. This is an example of what can be achieved when the union, training, and contractors pull together for a common goal.”
For more information about pre-apprentice programs, go to NWCI’s website or email Marianna Talbott at firstname.lastname@example.org.