When Richard Laffey and his classmates graduated from their 16-week construction trades training program in May, several already had jobs lined up.
Laffey, a 43-year-old Everett native and Stillaguamish Indian, said he was thankful for the opportunity provided by the Tulalip Tribes through their Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO), which runs the tribe's Vocational Training Center with support from Sound Transit.
Completing a pre-apprenticeship program like TERO’s is a first step toward successful employment in family wage jobs in the construction trades.
For Laffey, it’s also an opportunity for a better future.
“It was a life-changing experience,” he said. “So many doors were opened up because of this, so I’m really grateful. And, as they say, the proof is in the pudding.”
Laffey has seen the success of the program through a family member: his brother graduated two years ago, and was recently able to buy a house.
“In our communities, we don’t always get out of our comfort zone and off the reservation,” Laffey said. “This program opened our eyes. There are more career opportunities out there than we think.”
Building the workforce of tomorrow
TERO’s mission is to train Native Americans and their families, helping them gain the competitive skills to enter a career in the trades or construction both within and beyond the reservation boundaries.
The training facility has been in operation since 2002, and is accredited through both Renton Technical and South Seattle Community Colleges. Hundreds have graduated from the program and gone on to careers in construction.
Home to the most cranes in the nation, Seattle is experiencing a construction boom, but competition for skilled construction labor is fierce. Sound Transit estimates there could be a 9 to 10 percent shortage in skilled tradespeople through 2042.
Sound Transit works with organizations like TERO throughout the region to make sure our job sites have the skilled labor needed to expand your mass transit system over the next 25 years.
“We’re building the largest transit expansion in America,” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said at the TERO program's graduation. “The good news is we will have contractors working for us and hiring for the next quarter century.”
We can’t hire people fast enough in a lot of trades, and we’re going to need to help prime that pump to get people into those trades, Rogoff said.
Rogoff said Sound Transit is committed to the partnerships that will bring these family-wage jobs to fruition, especially those that lift up underrepresented groups.
“We want a diverse workforce on our projects. We want to pierce through any of the historic tendencies that have kept that from happening,” he said.
To date, Sound Transit has put about 12,800 skilled Union tradespeople to work.
In a recent week in May we counted more than 1,700 men and women working more than 60,000 hours on our construction projects to expand Link light rail lines in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties.
A new apprentice starting today could spend his or her career building Sound Transit projects. Carpenters' wages start at $42.47, and journey workers make $60.04 per hour.
The TERO program graduates earned certificates in a variety of construction skills covering everything from administering first aid and CPR to operating forklifts.
They also learned how to write a resume and prepare for an interview. Seven of the students earned their high school diploma, and one earned his GED.
TERO works closely with local Union apprenticeship programs including the Carpenters, Cement Masons, Ironworkers, Operating Engineers, Sheet Metal Workers, Laborers and Electricians.
Get to work on a Sound Transit construction site near you
Sound Transit’s voter-approved multi-billion dollar investment in expanding the region’s transit system will bring job opportunities throughout Pierce, King and Snohomish counties.
The agency is invested in several construction training programs around the Puget Sound, including those that serve people of color, women and other diverse groups.
For more information about getting your start as a skilled construction tradesperson, check out these useful links.