Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ferries maintenance facility hires two apprentices with future in mind

By Justin Fujioka

Two new apprentices are learning tricks of the trade at our Washington State Ferries' Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility. That's where more than 100 employees keep the ferry system functioning by repairing and maintaining our vessels.

Celia Brooks and Jules Hadley were recently hired to shadow and work alongside journeymen at the complex, which is home to 10 different trade shops. The goal is that apprentices will be ready to move up to full-time employment when they complete the program.

With many of the facility's employees approaching retirement soon, we have been working to secure funding for apprenticeships for several years now. We finally got the OK for two positions in April 2017.

Both apprentices know how important their apprenticeships are for the future.

"We have to soak up as much as we can from them and we need more people to do it," Celia said.
Celia Brooks is learning about our ferry electrical systems as an apprentice
in the Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility electrical shop.

But attracting candidates has been challenging, an issue facing employers across the maritime and industrial landscape. Celia was the only person to apply for her spot in the electric shop. Jules was one of six candidates for her position in the pipefitter shop.

There are a variety of factors that make recruitment complex, but one is surprisingly simple.

"A lot of (students) don't know about the trades," Jules said. "Having more apprentices would be a great benefit."

R.J. Kelly, Eagle Harbor's general manager, said he is looking to go against that trend, eventually recruiting for apprentices to join his other eight shops – machine, sheet metal, weld, lock, radio, carpenter, insulation and shore maintenance.
Jules Hadley, one of our new apprentices at our Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility,
speaks with some of the journeymen who work at the facility.

While there are no additional apprentice positions currently available at his facility, R.J. said he encourages anyone looking to get into the maritime trades to contact the Metal Trades Council or Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters. Both serve as apprenticeship program sponsors. Those interested in shore maintenance can get their start by applying with us as an ordinary seaman or get training from schools like Seattle Central College's Maritime Academy.

Celia Brooks
It's Celia's love of ferries that got her into the marine side of electrical work at Vigor Industrial in Seattle, then at ACI Boats in Port Townsend. She started her career in the Job Corps, working as a residential and commercial electrician.

Celia's first day at Eagle Harbor's electric shop was Nov. 16. This shop handles all things electrical on the ferries and at the terminals. She's already worked on things like generators, pumps and vessel steering. Celia said she would one day like to move up to management, possibly doing electrical inspection work.

Jules Hadley
Jules started at the pipefitter shop on Dec. 5, following six months in South Seattle College's Welding Intensive for Maritime & Manufacturing Environments program. She's already worked on vessel inspections, checking that carbon dioxide and sprinkler systems go off properly in case of emergency.

As a regular ferry commuter, Jules said knowing the ins and outs of something you take daily is always important to know about.

"Hopefully when I'm done with my program I end up an employee here teaching someone else the same thing that they're teaching me now."
Celia Brooks (left) and Jules Hadley were hired as new apprentices at our Ferries' Eagle Harbor
Maintenance Facility, where they'll learn how to keep our boats operating.

Women in trade
Celia and Jules join only a handful of women who work at the facility. R.J. said he wasn't specifically looking for women to fill these apprenticeships, but they are a welcome addition to a workforce that better reflects the population we serve.

While R.J. said he recalls having only one woman apprentice in the past, his two apprentices both seem to be fitting in well and co-workers are excellent about answering questions and making sure they get the hands-on experience they need to improve.

"A lot of people think the blue-collar guys would be rough and rugged, but these guys are just like a family," Celia said.

Celia and Jules both said that more women counterparts would be a refreshing sight.

"This isn't a man's world anymore," Celia said "We all are strong-willed and we have hands that work just as well, brains that work just as well."

"Don't stop dreaming," Jules added "If it's your goal, go for it. Don't have anyone stop you. If it's something that you love to do, don't just settle for something that someone else thinks you should be doing."