Sound Transit inaugurates RAPID Program with $200,000 for apprenticeship training

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Sound Transit Board Chair Ron Sims presents check for RAPID System funds to the Metropolitan Development Council.

King County Executive Ron Sims, in his role as Sound Transit Board Chair, joined with Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and other Boardmembers Wednesday today to kick off RAPID (Regional Apprenticeship Preparation Integrated Delivery System) -- an important program to recruit and train future apprentices for the building and construction trades. Representatives from six community groups in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties received grants totaling nearly $200,000.

"If we want a strong, local and diverse workforce to build projects that will take us into the future, we need to start building that workforce today," said County Executive Ron Sims. "That's why Sound Transit is supporting community-based organizations that help people develop the skills they need to work in construction and building trades."

RAPID's goal is to increase the base of minority, women or low-income workers in these trade apprenticeships. To achieve this goal, RAPID prepares unemployed and underemployed people through education and skills training. The program is an important component of Sound Transit's Project Labor Agreement which is required of all Sound Transit prime contractors building Sounder stations and the Link light rail project. Contractors agree to use a percentage of typically under-represented groups in their employment and subcontracting. Among these goals is a commitment to use apprentices for a minimum of 20 percent of all hours worked.

"This is a great example of government doing the right thing," said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. "I'm pleased to see Sound Transit creating pathways for people to gain family-wage jobs."

According to the PLA, five cents of every work hour covered under the agreement will go to funding the RAPID program. The funds were supposed to come in as construction dollars were spent. But, in order to jump start the program and maximize the opportunities for apprentices, the Sound Transit board advanced the program $175,000. The program is expected to reach $1 million by the time the Sound Move projects are completed.

"RAPID is a very important program for this region," said Peter Coates, Executive Secretary of the Seattle/King County Building and Construction Trades Council. "Sound Transit is a major force in construction here and RAPID will help keep the jobs local by recruiting and training the workers of the future."

Two soon-to-be graduates of an apprentice training program receiving a RAPID grant were present at today's ceremony. Thirty year old Crystal Jeghalef (ironworker) of Redmond and 36 year old Regina Pete (carpenter) of Federal Way will graduate from ANEW (Apprenticeship and Non-traditional Employment for Women <and Men>) next month.

"I'm a single mother - two girls (16 and 4) - whose best salary was $16 an hour as an accounting clerk," said Pete. "This training has given me the skills, knowledge, confidence and attitude to walk on any job site and know that I belong there and can get a good job with a livable salary so I can send my girls to college."

"I was a laid off administrative assistant," said Jeghalef. "My unemployment was running out and I needed options. I was lucky to find this program which not only trained me but provided other support while I was learning my new skills. Now I know I can get a good job and a fair wage."

NOTE: To see fact sheet for list of groups receiving grants click here.

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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.