Graduates from ironworkers training begin new pathway

Finding meaningful employment can be difficult for people who have been involved in the criminal justice system, but a King County program is offering new opportunity and hope.

The King County Jobs Initiative (KCJI) provides assistance to individuals with previous convictions or justice system involvement who are unemployed and on food stamps. It focuses job training in employment areas that have the most potential for wage growth.

The program recently partnered with the Ironworkers Union Local 86 to launch KCJI’s first Ironworkers Cohort Pre-apprenticeship training, a four-week intensive program that submerges participants into the world of ironworking.

On Orientation Day, individuals went through a four-hour physical test; lifting 80-pound rebar to and from different areas for 30 minutes; various wire tying tests; a rope tying test; and a basic math test, all of which are common job functions in ironworking.

Project/Program Manager Stephanie Moyes with Employment and Education Resources in the Department of Community and Human Service, oversees KCJI partnered alongside the Communities of Opportunity staffto get the ironworkers program up and running.  

“Thirty applicants were screened and the top 12 performers were selected to take part in King County’s first Ironworkers pre-apprenticeship cohort, two of which are female,” Stephanie said.

On September 8, eight pre-apprentices graduated and were certified in welding, math and basic CPR.

“At the end of graduation day, three of them had offers to start work on that following Monday,” Stephanie said. By the end of the following week all eight were employed. With the union, hourly wages start at $26.34, plus benefits.

A requirement that went into selecting candidates was that they be recipients of SNAP/EBT, that way KCJI would be eligible to submit for 50% reimbursement through Basic Food Employment and Training, a federal program.

“The program costs about $48,000 for the cohort of 12 students,” Stephanie said. “The State reimburses us $24,000 by selecting candidates that receive SNAP benefits, and with the reimbursement we are able to assist more people.”

Part of the investment went toward paying their initiation dues for the union, first month’s dues, hard hats, basic tools and specific boots for them to be safe in that environment.

“While it is a lot of money, it’s a good investment in individuals,” Stephanie said. “It creates a culture of self-sufficiency and enables them to contribute to their community.”

Along with graduating and having found employment, graduates also earned college credit through South Seattle College for the courses that they completed.

King County Jobs Initiative is optimistic for future collaborations with Local 86.

“We want to do more,” Stephanie said. “Our overarching employment and education goal is having community members on a career pathway so that their household is making above the median income.”

Wilson Pettiford: “The first day of ‘hell day’ my shoulder was all cut up from the rebar. Going for one month of pre-apprenticeship training was fun, I learned a lot from the teachers and other apprentices around the school. The whole thing was life changing for me and my family. Wouldn’t trade it for nothing and would do it all over again.”

Jacob Wagner: “Thanks to KCJI to give me this opportunity, now I can make a decent wage and assist my kids and family.”

Alonzo King: “Thank you, and the KCJI program for putting me back up and not giving up on me, it was not an easy training that we went through with Ironworkers, but I made it. Thanks for believing in me.”

Shaun Cockrill: “Thank you for a great opportunity to join Ironworkers 86 Apprenticeship in such a short time. It was challenging but totally worth it.”

Victor Vasquez: “The Ironworker pre-apprenticeship was a challenging and rewarding opportunity. It is Intense training to prepare you for a real-world opportunity to change your life. I’m grateful for the opportunity and am looking forward to a career as an Ironworker.”

Pictured left to right: Back row: Wilson Pettiford, Omet Keira, Instructor, Instructor, Jerrel Ingram, Instructor. Front row: Robert Hutchison, Alonzo King, Jacob Wegzyn, Victor Vasquez Jr., Shaun Cockrill