Special Project of the Washington State Convention Center

Construction Updates. Click HERE

Updates

NEWS|March 11 2021

March Newsletter: Changing Lives With Opportunities in the Building Trades

Yvonne Harry works on the WSCC Addition project.

Hello,

For the past eight months, the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) Addition project has had a unique partner on the jobsite – What’s Next Washington (WNW), an organization focused on helping employers benefit from the talents of people with conviction histories. WNW has just completed a research project with the Addition workforce comparing the performance of workers with conviction histories to those without. The fact that the Addition project, unlike some large employers and governmental entities, doesn’t discriminate based on conviction history enabled the study. There is a strong belief that people who are dedicated to working hard deserve a second chance.

Newly released study results indicate that people with conviction histories perform well on the job. A perfect example is Yvonne Harry, who was instrumental in recruiting study participants. It’s Women in Construction Week – all the more reason to celebrate workers like Harry.

As an ironworker foreman working on the Addition project, Harry leads a team, solves problems and oversees quality and safety for her crew. She is a respected and accomplished professional with 15 years of experience. But it wasn’t always that way.

The opportunity to work in the building trades changed Harry’s life. She had been in and out of prison from age 18, struggling after each release with a lack of structure and few opportunities for living-wage work. Then she found TRAC (Trades Related Apprentice Coaching) on a flyer posted inside the Washington Corrections Center for Women.

 

Tapping Talent and Drive

TRAC is a partnership between the prison and unions representing the construction trades — the Carpenters, Ironworkers, Laborers and Cement Masons unions. The program enables inmates to learn skills that can lead to a career they may never have envisioned. Harry signed up for what she described as a rigorous and demanding few months of pre-apprenticeship training while still in prison.

“I was working two days after my release,” she said. “Apprenticeship coordinators know the women in this program have been aggressively training, and they come looking to place us. They know our hunger and drive.”

WNW hopes the evidence that hiring the formerly incarcerated is low risk will inspire other employers to remove barriers to employment. Access to living-wage jobs like those on the Addition project is crucial for a population that disproportionately includes people of color and people experiencing poverty.

“I recently have had the privilege of having a young woman in work release, coming out of the same prison program I did 15 years ago, working for me,” Harry said. “She’s the most prompt, on time and dedicated. When you have absolutely nothing and you’re trying to rebuild your life, you’re the most dedicated and driven worker there is.”

 

Creating Opportunity for Lifelong Careers

The large scale of the Addition project enables apprentices to get the full range of experience needed to become a fully certified journey-level worker in their trade and benefit from lifelong careers.

“The Addition project is like every job you can imagine, all in one,” she said. “It enables apprentices to learn every aspect of their trade, just on this job. This gives everyone an opportunity to get their life together. Two apprentices on my crew alone are buying their first house, just because of their financial history from this project.”

Harry, a 17-time felon who last left prison at age 24, now has a family and owns a home.

 

“Any employer that offers the formerly incarcerated a chance can benefit,” she said. “You can change someone’s life just by giving them an opportunity.”
On the Addition project, more than 17 percent of the workforce consists of apprentices, providing a career boost for many. For more information on the Addition project’s community and economic benefits, visit our website.

 

Yours in Partnership,
The Addition Team

Open for business 2022.

Share

Economic Profile

A report by Washington Research Council.

Learn More

© Washington State Convention Center

WSCC.com Privacy Policy

Stay Informed

As momentum for the Addition project builds, this web site will grow, as well. Please sign up for general updates on the project or to keep your company informed about construction or service opportunities. Note that the sign up is specifically for news about the WSCC Addition project, rather than existing WSCC business.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.