Who’s hiring? Barely a pandemic pause in construction jobs

In the race to recover from the Covid19 Pandemic and recession some industries are leading the charge. KIRO 7 TV is committed to helping our region recover. That’s why we’re spending every day this week at 5:30 PM spotlighting the industries that are offering jobs now - and have the best chance for long term growth and stability.

Washington’s economy changed almost overnight in March of 2020 and with changing restrictions, recovery has been rocky. But construction is one area that has not taken a huge hit. The industry is hiring and expected to continue to take on new recruits.

Emily Durante is one of them, laying down the infrastructure - and her own future - working as an apprentice on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s 520 Montlake Lid Project.

“I wanted to do something more fulfilling work with my hands,” she says. “I’ve been on this job working for Elcon for the past two months.”

That’s right. She made the leap from office job to electrical work during the pandemic.

Emily walked us through her new “office” and she’s proof people can transition. As an apprentice, she’ll spend the next few years learning on the job from journeymen and women, and have time in the classroom.

Career with a future

Projects like the 520 replacement and Montlake lid need people and many trades are hiring now: carpenters, iron workers, and other skilled trades-people.

On the lid project alone, construction crews will be working until 2024 when WSDOT says the $455 Million project will be done.

Many other projects are driving the industry, and Washington’s recovery. Light rail expansions to Lynnwood, revamping I-5 in Tacoma, building offices in Bellevue, and residential construction in Seattle all mean demand for construction trades will be high for years, maybe even decades.

“I feel like I’m part of something bigger, we’re building the world’s largest floating bridge,” says Durante. “I can see that it’s just one more pipe in the ground today, but it means so much more over the life of the project.”

In Dupont, Cindy Gaudio - a bridge carpenter by trade and current apprenticeship coordinator for the local carpenter’s union - says all the trades she trains are in demand.

“General carpenters, metal framing, we have our millwrights,” says Gaudio.

And despite how busy she is, she says she’d like to be even busier.

“We’re taking applications all the time. We’re definitely looking for more women to come into the trade. There’s a lot of work out here for the next couple of years,” says Gaudio.

Her industry may have even more demand soon.

Growth potential

Long term, Washington Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar has said we should be spending about double what we currently do to improve our infrastructure.

“Infrastructure investment is critical to the state’s economy, to our quality of life, to protecting our environment, and to access to opportunity for all Washingtonians. It’s more than just new or expanded highways, it’s looking at the entire system – roads, highways, bridges, ferries, rail, aviation, transit and options for those who walk, roll, and ride bicycles – with a focus on addressing climate change and equity,” said Millar’s office in a statement.

And at the end of March, President Joe Biden unveiled a $2 Trillion plan to boost infrastructure. That money could flow to projects and the crews that work on them.

Cindy Gaudio says these are family wage jobs with a lot of career paths.

“The moment you start working is the moment you start making money,” says Gaudio, who notes that apprentices also get benefits.

Even when the pandemic shut down Washington, WSDOT says the Montlake Lid project only stopped for 60 days. Then people were back to work.

“There’s extreme needs for infrastructure and the city is going to continue to grow,” says Durante.

Piping in electricity has been Durante’s task for the last few months, and she hopes it lasts for years.

She says the transition can work for those up to the challenge.

“Coming out here even if it’s raining, even if it’s cold, I still leave - I just feel way more fulfilled,” says Durante.

Find information about apprenticeship programs, and get help with your job search here.

Every day at 5:30 PM this week KIRO 7 is focusing on getting you back to work. Watch on KIRO 7, your streaming device, your smart TV or the KIRO 7 App.