Doug Ernst

Napa Valley Register columnist Doug Ernst.

After receiving 120 hours of instruction from experts with North Bay Building Trades Councils, 15 students will emerge from the Trades Introduction Program (TIP) at a Feb. 11 completion ceremony with pre-apprentice certificates designed to land construction jobs.

Thanks to a grant from the California Economic Development Department, TIP training is offered in four counties – Napa, Sonoma, Marin and Solano – to help groom the next generation of plumbers, carpenters, masons, painters, electricians, insulators, surveyors, draftsmen, metal workers and other skilled workers.

“We see growth in TIP students from start to finish, in the personal decisions they make,” said organizer Bill Scott, who is with the Marin Building Trades Council.

“They start with drafting, drawing and construction math, then learn interviewing skills and how to read blueprints.”

By the time they complete the course, the students can get started as apprentices, earning upwards of $20 per hour in jobs that include training, benefits and advancement.

“They earn first aid/CPR and OSHA certificates that open doors, give them points and allow entry into apprenticeship boot camps,” Scott added.

The North Bay trades-sponsored course also helps students develop relationships within the North Bay construction industry.

“The point is to help them build good, middle-class careers,” said Scott. “Apprentices who go through this kind of formal training are twice as safe on the job sites as those who don’t, and those who get into union jobs earn an average of $300,000 more over their careers than those who don’t get union jobs.”

“With this type of pre-apprentice training, we will get more people into the trades. More people will see the value of pre-apprenticeship training, and invest in it.”

Also, students who realize the value of this type of training are more likely to seek job opportunities and acquire additional skills at regional training centers, Scott said.

“My next step is to get into a carpenter’s apprenticeship program,” said Clemencio Lopez, who is scheduled to attend the completion ceremony on Feb. 11.

“I applied in April, but with my certificate there is no waiting list. If a company sponsors us we jump to the head of the line and go to a six-week carpenters’ boot camp,” said Lopez, 24, from Santa Rosa.

Frank Cuneo, a TIP coordinator, said he became involved in the program to help “get the community colleges, workforce development boards and apprenticeship programs to work more closely together.”

As a result, he said, about 62 percent of recent TIP graduates are working as apprentices or are employed in related construction jobs.

There are openings in two upcoming TIP courses, including one in March in Sonoma and one later in the year in Solano. Information is available by calling 576-7299 or emailing sonomabctc@gmail.com.

The Feb. 11 completion ceremony will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Community Room of the Napa Valley College Library, in the 1700 building. The guest speaker will be TIP Steering Committee member Dan Digardi.

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Doug Ernst is the Napa Valley College public information officer. Reach him at DErnst@napavalley.edu or (707) 256-7112.