Francisco Perez envisioned himself in the medical field, but that all changed when he took a metal shop class at Pullman High School his freshman year. Now, Perez is the only student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Lewis-Clark State College’s welding program.
Perez, 21, of Pullman, already has his associate degree in welding. Once he graduates in spring 2020, he plans to join a boilermakers union in Seattle — a city with a population that’s exploding. He’d like to dabble in every branch of welding, from the aerospace and jetboat industry to pipeline and structural welding, one day furthering his skills to also try hyperbaric, or underwater, welding. “I’ve met a lot of people who don’t seem to think it’s important,” Perez said. “But we build the world, really. Anything from bridges to buildings to boats, so I feel we have a pretty big responsibility to provide people with safe infrastructure and safe products for either personal use or industrial use.”
As industries struggle to fill high-wage trade jobs, there is a big demand for students like Perez. Each of LCSC’s about 30 career and technical programs has an advisory committee that reviews curriculum and makes sure students are learning the skills they need to be successful in their future career. And all have expressed a need for more workers, according to Jeff Ober, dean of career and technical education at LCSC.
“I don’t think there’s anywhere there’s not a high demand,” he said.
The gap between skilled workers and available jobs is expected to grow, with fields like health care, manufacturing and natural resources struggling to get the workers they need.