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Trade school a smart choice for Port of Seattle employee

Jeff Bynum, central plant operator at Sea-Tac Airport and pictured below, found a skilled trade involving skills other than "using a wrench..." 

Jeff Bynum works in HVAC, a skilled trade

Jeff Bynum, one of the Port of Seattle employees responsible for indoor climate control at Sea-Tac Airport, remembers when he made the decision to pursue a skilled trade career instead of college.

Bynum said he never really cared for high school, and didn’t want to go to college. It was his father’s suggestion that he study heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) that launched his journey into the trades. He got his initial training in HVAC through the military reserves, and then spent two years in trade school, followed by an apprenticeship.

Today, as a “central plant” operator at Sea-Tac Airport, he keeps the airport’s boilers, chillers fans and pumps humming.

The opportunities to advance in a trade career are plentiful, he said, especially with many of the baby boomers retiring. “As long as you get the schooling to be licensed and certified with the state, you can be qualified for multiple trade jobs, which can make for a more steady and flexible work life,” he said.

In many apprenticeships, employers pay for training, which can include maintenance, service, modernization, plumbing, electrical and other skills. For those interested, Bynum recommended applying for as many apprenticeships as possible to increase the probability of getting hired.

“There are ample opportunities for everyone, including women and minorities, in the skilled trades,” he said. “Skills are evolving as well. Not every trade job means using a wrench on pipes, but can involve technology and computers.”

For those waiting to find an apprenticeship position, Bynum recommends trade school. “It might take a while to get an apprenticeship, but don’t give up. It can be discouraging when you apply for something and don’t get it, but keep trying for apprenticeships,” he said. “It’s a commitment and it’s not easy, but worth it in the long run.”

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries actively posts apprenticeships and other important skilled trade information on its website.