Apprenticeships are growing in popularity across America and many companies are looking to take advantage of that interest to infuse lots of new, young workers into the trade industry.

Evan Thomas currently works as a machinist in Puyallup. It is a testament to what he called the best decision of his life.

“Coming out of high school, I applied for colleges because that’s what the counselors were telling me to do,” he said.

Thomas went to college but felt he went without an end goal and only went because everyone else was going.

“As a young man, you’re dealing with peer pressure. Everyone else is getting into college - going off to college - and you’re trying to get out. You’re fighting with moms, like 'OK I’m ready to go,'" he said.

Thomas spent two-and-a-half years in college before leaving.

“When you’re 18, four years seems like an eternity,” he said.

It wasn’t until he heard about the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee that his eyes opened to a whole new world of opportunities.

At AJAC, Thomas got hands-on experience while earning money to support his family and learn a trade in desperate need of new talent.

“The baby boomers are getting ready to leave,” he said. “This trade is big about passing knowledge; we have to learn from the guys and gals that have been doing it for 30, 40 years.”

After working with AJAC, Thomas landed a gig at Machinists Inc. where he was able to play a significant role in the renovation of the Space Needle.

“If you go to the new Space Needle they have the glass floor at the restaurant, and if you look down you see the gears that make it spin. I actually personally made those at Machinists Inc.,” he said.

For Thomas, that allows him to leave a lasting legacy for his family.

“That’s something I can show my kids, their kids, my grandkids and say 'that’s what dad did',” he said.

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Thomas secured his apprenticeship thanks in part to help from Zorik Shtikel at Trac Associates in Seattle. Shtikel helps supervise programs that help people find jobs and apprenticeships.  

Shtikel, a college graduate with a degree in social services, said college allowed him to do what he wanted to achieve in his career but he sees the numerous opportunities from an apprenticeship.

“I’m a huge proponent of both,” Shtikel said. “I’m glad there’s two different routes and there’s more opportunities for apprenticeships because not everyone wants to go the college route.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, apprenticeships have seen a 56 percent growth since 2013. Here in Washington state, they added more than 16,000 apprentices during the 2018 fiscal year through 210 active programs.

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On average, both those who are considered fully proficient and completed an apprenticeship and a four-year college graduate earn about the same starting pay: $50,000 a year.

However, because most apprenticeships average about two years compared to four for a bachelor’s degree, those who complete an apprenticeship could end up with a two-year jump on work experience and pay.

“It was the best decision I ever made, easily,” Thomas said.

Both Thomas and Shtikel are new parents and said they’re excited about these kinds of opportunities for their children.

There are several apprenticeships available throughout Washington state and some even have apprenticeships for students as young as 16 years old. To learn more about AJAC, click here and to learn more about Trac Associates follow this link.