Construction connection – focus on trades

Great jobs are there for all who are willing to work hard; how do we follow the path to prosperity?

Ellen Rogers
ELLEN ROGERS Southwest Washington Contractors Association

The drumbeat is getting stronger: We have all seen the Facebook posts from the famous Mike “Dirty Jobs” Rowe and his calls for more trade education. Rowe has even pledged to fund scholarships to entice our youth to follow careers in trades. Then Thomas Franck at echoed the same message – the key to closing the income gap in the United States is a trade – not a four-year degree. Recently, Matt Krupnick at PBS News Hour again echoed the same message about the value of education in the trades.

These trends are exciting to hear – they support what many of our members already know – great jobs are there for all who are willing to work hard. The question is how do we in Clark County follow this path to prosperity?

For little kids, everyone dreams to drive a dump truck or a bull dozer. Not every kid is lucky enough to have an excavator or a tractor in their backyard. But every year in May – big kids (or parents) and little kids alike – look forward to the Nutter Foundation Dozer Days. This unique event puts the kids in the driver seat of the big equipment to help to dig a hole or move some dirt. We start them young in Clark County.

But what are we doing as a community to reach out to the bigger kids – both high school and post-secondary-aged kids? For juniors and seniors in high school, Cascadia Tech Academy, the rebranded “Skills Center,” offers a multitude of programs in the trades; including diesel, automotive, aviation and construction technology. Kids who complete these degrees graduate with both a technical understanding of their field as well as applied skills that they can take straight into a career or an apprentice program. Cascadia programs are offered for half a day, while students complete the rest of their high school in their home school – whether it is a physical or online high school, home school or Clark College Running Start.

For bigger kids looking to transition into a new career, Clark College offers advanced manufacturing and mechanical degrees, including automotive, diesel, mechatronics and welding programs. Other regional providers include the Industrial Training International (ITI) location in Woodland. ITI has many programs, training students the operation of cranes, rigging and load handling activities, among other programs. West Coast Training, also in Woodland, offers an eight-week heavy equipment operators’ course to get you on the job quickly with the skills you need to succeed. Multiple companies in Clark County offer instruction to obtain a Commercial Drivers’ License. There are many opportunities for career changes in Clark County.

The SWCA Education Committee is designing a Young Contractors Forum for 2020. Keep your eyes peeled for more information on this exciting event or give us a call if you want to join in the planning. The SWCA Foundation also runs a scholarship program to support kids seeking trade education.

We will keep beating this drum to continue building a strong community with a diverse, robust economy.

Ellen Rogers is master of advocacy and brand experience for the Southwest Washington Contractors Association. She can be reached at

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