Pre-apprenticeship program exposes teens to valuable labor skills

TANGENT — Johny Marquez still is mulling his career training options for life after June, when he’s to graduate from high school.

The Crescent Valley High School senior hopes to attend culinary school, but he wants to have fall-back plans in case he chooses to do something different.

“If college doesn’t work out for me for some reason, I still want to be able to find a good job,” Marquez said.

That’s why, on Tuesday morning, Marquez was busy learning how to wire a circuit for a light bulb. He’s one of 12 students participating in a pre-apprenticeship program this spring at the IBEW Local 280 Training Center in Tangent.

Students from Corvallis, Crescent Valley and College Hill high schools started the program.

The class also received a visit from Brad Avakian, the commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Earlier Tuesday morning, he participated in a roundtable discussion with local education officials and community partners.

Avakian is a proponent of career and technical education for students and wants to expand career and technical education programs to all middle and high schools in Oregon.

That is because the majority of Oregon’s educated, trained and experienced electricians, plumbers, welders, mechanics and other skilled tradespeople are nearing retirement age — and young people are not receiving the training to replace them.

“I believe career and technical education should have an equal place in public schools with their regular curriculum,” Avakian said.

“ ... They will learn skills that can benefit them their entire lives even if they don’t choose to be electricians or work in construction.”

Avakian cited the renewable energy field as an example of a field that will need skilled workers within the next several years.

“We expect as high as 60 percent of the jobs in that field to be filled by people who just have high school degrees,” Avakian said. “The need is there for highly trained workers.”

Samantha Parra, a sophomore at Crescent Valley, said she applied for the pre-apprentice program because of a friend’s recommendation. Other careers Parra is interested in pursuing include culinary arts and child care.

“I just wanted to learn something different and have fun doing it,” Parra said. “I think it also will make me more well-rounded.”

Bob Salle, an instructor at the IBEW Local 280 Training Center, said he hopes the pre-apprenticeship program helps students realize they can be successful even if they don’t go to college.

“There’s plenty of ways to make a good living,” Salle said. “So I hope they keep their options open and continue to learn different skills.”

Raju Woodward can be contacted at 758-9526 or


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