Local push for construction training focuses on mass transit in the Rainier Valley area

Training for construction workers has begun and is ongoing in Rainier Valley, after a new contract was awarded by the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund and the Seattle Jobs Initiative to help train its residents to work in local construction jobs.

Thanks to money from the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund, set up to relieve pressure on small businesses and low income people affected by Sound Transit, and the vision of the Seattle Jobs Initiative, a pre apprenticeship program will begin training Rainier Valley residents for construction jobs.

"This is really specifically in response to Sound Transit light rail and the city's commitment to that community," said Krista Kenner with the Seattle Jobs Initiative. "Our goal is to help people become employed and give them financial stability."

Training for construction workers has been ongoing for at least five years. However, according to Rhonda Simmons, executive director of the Seattle Jobs Initiative, training for the pre apprenticeship program has only recently begun in community colleges, which hopes to help people in the South End recover from problems caused by the Light Rail.

"There are over 30 construction-related trades that can be moved into, so the idea is to get a good pipeline of diverse people into those jobs that pay good wages with good benefits," Simmons said. "What's happening in the jobs market is that we are having high end and low end jobs, but middle jobs are eroding and those that do exist, well, we could do a better job at training [people for] them."


The Seattle Jobs Initiative helps low-income residents secure and advance in living wage occupations by giving them support through short-term job training. The training lasts anywhere from one quarter to two quarters at community or technical colleges and includes Rainier Valley residents who are at least 18 years old, are unemployed, and have a family income at, or below, the federal poverty guidelines.

"Really this is an effort to focus on populations that traditionally really don't get a shot, such as young people, women, people of color," Simmons said.

With a proven track record in pre-apprenticeship programs in both welding and office occupations, the Seattle Jobs Initiatives crew is confident in their success.

"If a company doesn't have enough trained workers, well, they have to get the work done so they will look elsewhere, whether it be outsourcing or whatever," Simmons said. "And in instances like Sound Transit, we would love for the people in the community to be working on the city, so we're training them to do just that."

Since its establishment in 1999, the RVCD fund has helped Rainier Valley residents with any problems caused by Sound Transit, and hopes to continue in its goal to supply the area with well-trained and competitive workers.

While the largest part of the RVCD fund was set aside for small businesses that were affected by Sound Transit, such as helping them relocate or continue their business, another part was set aside for low-income families.

"The city is trying to put in money to help the area and the people in the area," said Al Sugiyama with the Center for Career Alternatives. "We already have a low income area and are displacing the low-income housing and small businesses. What little they have is almost gone, so the city has to do something."

Administering a total of $50 million dollars to help the area, the RVCD fund began training workers in welding, office occupations, and now construction.

As a graduate of the Office Occupations program funded by the RVCD and coordinated by the Seattle Jobs Initiative, Samantha Moralez can attest to the success of the program and now recommends it to both her family and her friends.

Previously working as a nurses assistant in a retirement home, Moralez hoped for a job working in an office and found the Office Occupations program to be a perfect training program for her.

"I thought that being a receptionist would give me the opportunity for variety and I was always organized so I thought it would be great," Moralez said.

She got her Office Technician Certification after six months in the program and graduated in December 2003. After a few months working on call with the YMCA, she got hired full time and moved up to Administrative Assistant II.

"The training was great and it didn't cram so much information at you that you couldn't think straight, but just enough so that you really learned," Moralez said. "The teachers were great and the information they taught was great. After the classes I felt like I was really a professional."

After a year working in her trained occupation, Moralez learned from the Seattle Jobs Initiative how to set up an Individual Development Account, and is now working towards a three-year goal of buying her own home.

Focusing on community and restructuring an already deprived community, the RVCD fund hopes to strengthen cultural diversity and provide economic opportunity for Rainier Valley residents and businesses.

"This fund is really just to give people from the Rainier Valley a piece of the action," Jamie Garcia, executive director of the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund. "If we're going to have construction in our back yard, we should be the people working on it."

With issues such as gentrification and social division cropping up, concerns surround the failures of the system towards the people of Rainier Valley still arises.

"There still will be failures, there is no way we can help this," Garcia said. "This won't guarantee a job to anybody, but we're going to help people get trained so they're more competitive and this way we can have a nice mix of development. If we can build mixed-in housing and mixed income and mixed projects, we can have an impact on where the money goes and the people it helps."

"No doubt about it, Rainier Valley will improve with all that's going on," Garcia said. "And we'd like to keep a nice mix of socio-economic and ethnic people in the valley be[[In-content Ad]]