Construction Center of Excellence Wins National Grant to Expand Youth Apprenticeship


The Construction Center of Excellence, hosted by Renton Technical College, received a $150,000 grant to expand youth apprenticeship pathways for high-school aged youth. The Center was one of nine winners selected from a highly competitive pool of over 220 applicants from 49 states and Puerto Rico for the grant from the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA). 

The grant will support local employers, educators, community partners, and policy leaders who are working together to build high-quality registered youth apprenticeship programs that promote inclusive economic development and create new opportunities for young people. The grant funding will support the Construction Center of Excellence (CCE) strategy development and implementation activities over a 17-month period, starting this month. CCE serves as a statewide liaison to business, industry, labor and the state’s educational systems for the purpose of creating a highly skilled and readily available workforce, dedicated to principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“We are proud to partner with PAYA and our local stakeholders to create opportunities to prepare youth for successful careers,” CCE Director Shana Peschek said. 

The grant will fund the creation of the King County Regional Youth Apprenticeship Consortium that will bring together leaders from WA State Labor and Industries, WA State Labor Council, Apprenticeship Coordinators, State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, Construction Industry Training Council and Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County. The goal is to expand registered youth apprenticeships by building on existing programs and creating opportunities in new industries. This work will guide state policy and practices while creating opportunity for scale and innovation with a focus on equity and access for our youth. 

“The Workforce Development Council is pleased to congratulate the Center of Excellence,” said Dot Fallihee, interim chief executive officer for the Workforce Development Council of Seattle- King County. “Through this grant and recent private funding from Kaiser, along with federal investments, we have a great opportunity to build on a scalable youth apprenticeship model.” 

In addition to the funds, PAYA will provide CCE with tailored technical assistance from PAYA’s national partners, cross-site learning, and opportunities to participate in national research, communications, and storytelling efforts.

CCE also will join the newly formed PAYA Network, a learning community designed to link dynamic partnerships working to launch, expand, and improve apprenticeship opportunities for high school-aged youth.

 “Apprenticeships are a pathway to success for many students, training highly skilled workers for high-demand careers. “This work will expand RTC’s ability to support apprenticeships as a viable post-secondary option to students in our community.” RTC President Kevin McCarthy said.


About the Construction Center of Excellence

The Construction Center of Excellence (CCE) serves as a statewide liaison to business, industry, labor and the state’s educational systems, for the purpose of creating a highly skilled and readily available workforce, dedicated to principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which are critical to the success of the industries driving the state’s economy and supporting Washington families.


About Renton Technical College

Renton Technical College engages a diverse student population through educational opportunities for career readiness and advancement, serving the needs of individuals, the community, businesses, and industry. RTC offers career training, college transfer options, and high school completion. RTC’s completion rate of 63 percent is the state’s highest, and its job placement rate is 85 percent.

About the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA):

Created by New America, the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA) is a multi- year, multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to assist innovative organizations around the country in developing robust youth apprenticeship programs that are scaled and replicated to serve students, employers, and communities alike. PAYA is comprised of eight National Partner organizations: Advance CTE, CareerWise Colorado, Charleston Regional Youth Apprenticeship, Education Strategy Group, JFF, the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and the National Governors Association. PAYA is supported by funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Ballmer Group, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Joyce Foundation, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and the Siemens Foundation. Learn more at

About New America:

New America is dedicated to renewing America by continuing the quest to realize our nation's highest ideals, honestly confronting the challenges caused by rapid technological and social change, and seizing the opportunities those changes create.

Meeting Industry Demands

I think we can all agree we have a workforce crisis. We may frame it differently, some with data like the fact that 35% of future jobs need a 4-year degree yet we continue the message that all students should go to college after high school. Others blame a lack of interest of younger workers in construction jobs, and then there is need for much more construction prep classes and exposure in our K12 system. All this leads to a diminished pipeline of skilled workers creating a crisis for the construction industry.

There is not one approach that will provide a solution but there are actions we can take. Today I will focus on the vast potential to be found in the K12 community. I have heard many blame the counselors for not adequately exposing students to registered apprenticeship and construction careers. While I do agree we can take opportunities to share this information with counselors I do not believe the blame lies there, many counselors serve an incomprehensible number of students and often just making sure those students graduate is their main priority.

Also, many of the counselors I have talked with would love to share these career opportunities with their students but they have no idea how or where to start. To be sure, we have not made it easy on them, the registered apprenticeship system is complex and can be daunting if you are not familiar with its pathways.

Schools are often scored by the percentage of graduates going to college, as long as we continue promoting that metric without the inclusion of equally “excellent” metrics like entry into other post-secondary options then high school personnel are not left with much choice but to focus on 4-year college pathways.

Bigger than the current K12 environment that in general has desire but lacks tools and funding for robust construction career and technical education (at the moment there are approximately 100 construction related programs out of approximately 252 public high schools. Of these 100 some are robust and others are more “hobby” courses. Luckily, our current Superintendent of Public Instruction is a strong supporter of CTE and promoting career choices! Watch his inspiring presentation from the 2018 Pacific NW Apprenticeship Education Conference.

On top of that we have an image problem we need to fix and a culture that needs a major attitude adjustment. I would love it if the media would stop portraying construction as an industry for men. Very recently I watched a truck ad promoting its vehicle for the “brotherhood” of construction workers. The construction industry offers amazing career opportunities for everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, etc. and has incredible variety in the career paths available. I recently had the opportunity to operate an excavator and absolutely Loved it! What might my career path have been if I had the opportunity to experience that in my youth? Construction is also becoming increasingly impacted by technology…. here is our opportunity reimagine how we portray the industry, just as robotics has done for manufacturing.

Cultural attitudes…. now here comes the hard part. I say this based on my own very personal experience. This job has allowed me to see the amazing value of registered apprenticeship as an educational modality that is valuable and viable as a post-secondary choice. So, when my son started his youth apprenticeship program I was immediately confronted with the cultural attitudes and misinformation by family members. This notion that you won’t be successful or reach your potential without a four-year degree is deeply seated. This is so concerning on multiple levels. Not only does it not guarantee success but it certainly often guarantees college debt. According to Make Lemonade, there are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone! It broke my heart when my son said he was afraid to share with people that he was choosing apprenticeship instead of university, luckily, I had the knowledge to inform people and advocate for the opportunity - he has at an amazing future. Not all kids have that and it can be scary and discouraging for them to make a choice different than others.

Bottom line…. we have a lot of work to do, in many areas. So let’s roll up our sleeves, join forces and get to it! Who is with me?



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