Spokane Journal of Business

Construction training school expands on West Plains

More space being added after enrollment doubles

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-—Samantha Peone
Ken Hill, Construction Industry Training Council’s Eastern Washington coordinator, says the trade school is adding space to accommodate its 230 apprentices.
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Due to strong enrollment growth in its apprenticeship training programs, the Construction Industry Training Council is renovating and expanding its Eastern Washington training center for the second time in as many years. 

The Bellevue, Wash.-based vocational trade school for the construction industry is adding 7,300 square feet of space to its existing 12,900-square-foot center at 10428 W. Aero Road, on the West Plains, says Ken Hill, CITC’s Eastern Washington coordinator and its only full-time employee.

Hill says the nonprofit is building two more classrooms in the back of the structure and expanding the size of its student lounge area. CITC also is expanding its electrical lab and plumbing lab and adding about 50 percent more parking space.

Walker Construction Inc., of Spokane, is the contractor on the current $650,000 project, and some of CITC’s students are working as apprentices on the project, he says.

Enrollment at the West Plains training center has doubled to about 230 apprentices in the past year, Hill says.

Looking forward, Hill says CITC hopes to grow by about 15 percent in Eastern Washington next year.

“There were some things that happened that gave us a lot more growth this last year than normal, but we definitely want to continue to grow,” he says. 

For example, an apprenticeship program closed its doors, and CITC took on almost all their apprentices and contractors, he says.

CITC’s goal is to place apprentices at job sites so they can learn on the job as well as in the classroom, he says.

“They are the future journeymen for the construction industry in the state of Washington, and so that is where we are hoping to help the industry be able to replace the people who are currently retiring,” he says.

Many industry observers say the construction industry is facing a potential labor crisis due to persistent worker shortages due to a combination of factors, such as workers reaching retirement age and Great Recession-related layoffs of construction workers who haven’t returned to the industry.

A full-fledged journeyman in the Spokane area typically earns between $55,000 to $60,000 per year, says Hill. 

The renovations at the Eastern Washington facility should be finished by the end of the month and in use “as soon as the paint dries,” says Hill.

In September 2015, CITC completed its first renovation project, also at a cost of $650,000, that created classroom, lab, and meeting space at the facility.

In Spokane, the council offers apprentice education in electrical, plumbing, and carpentry programs.

Hill says CITC is working to start a sheet metal working program, or a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) program—or possibly both—here next September.

Most classes are scheduled for full days on one Friday and Saturday each month, says Hill. The organization plans to start Monday and Wednesday evening classes here as well.

CITC also offers electrical and sheet metal programs in the Tri-Cities, Wash., and heavy equipment training in Pullman, Wash.

A 6,000-square-foot space is being renovated in Pasco, Wash., for another Eastern Washington training facility. CITC hopes to open that location at the beginning of next year, he says.

The council has a satellite operation in Vancouver, Wash. A 26,700-square-foot Marysville, Wash., satellite office is expected to open Oct. 16, but some construction still will be underway, says Halene Sigmund, CITC’s president and CEO.

Including programs at all of its facilities, CITC offers a total 10 construction trade apprenticeship programs.

In addition to training Eastern Washington-based apprentices, CITC also trains students from Western Washington, Oregon, and throughout the Inland Northwest at its facility here.

Students from as far away as Bellingham, Wash., and Portland, Ore., attend classes here because of the course schedule, Hill says.

In Western Washington, classes typically are scheduled two nights a week for three hours a night, he says.

“If you live in Bellingham, and the class is down in Mountlake Terrace or Marysville, it’s hard to go down for an hour-and-a-half to two-hour drive to go to a three-hour class,” says Hill. “Instead, those students come all the way over here one time a month, so it’s a much easier training means for them.”

Classes cost about $1,000 per quarter. Most students are in employer-sponsored apprenticeship programs and only have to pay for their books and, in many cases, tools.

Most programs last four years, during which students work as full-time, paid apprentices with set raises based on the number of hours they have in the trade.

Hill says CITC attracts potential students through a variety of avenues, including marketing to contractors and participating in career fairs.

“We even advertised through local sporting events as well,” says Hill. “We marketed with four of the Spokane Empire games last year.”

Established in 1985, CITC opened its Eastern Washington facility in September 2015, says Hill. In addition to Hill, CITC employs one part-time individual here. 

Hill graduated from a CITC training program in 1993 and joined CITC’s apprenticeship committee afterward. He has been teaching with the organization for about five years, he says.

Samantha Peone
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