Seattle Public Schools

Programs and Career Pathways

Skilled Trades Pathway

Is this the right pathway for me?

  • Do you enjoy working with your hands and solving practical problems? 
  • Are you interested in learning a specific trade and gaining hands-on experience? 
  • Do you feel satisfaction seeing the physical results of your work? 

What is the Skilled Trades Pathway?

Students on a lift repairing a wall

Career Pathways in the Skilled Trades are about using skills in design, planning and management to work in careers building and maintaining structures such as buildings, homes, bridges, or machinery. Work opportunities include developing new structures, restorations, additions, alterations, and repairs. 

What sort of work would I do?

In skilled trades, students can do a wide variety of hands-on jobs that call for specific skills, knowledge, and training. For example, as a carpenter, you build and fix structures and furniture. Electricians work on electrical systems, plumbers fix plumbing, and welders join metal pieces. Mechanics repair vehicles, HVAC technicians work on heating and cooling systems, and masons build with bricks or stones. Painters add color to surfaces, cabinetmakers create wooden furniture, and auto body repair technicians fix damaged vehicles. These jobs let you use your hands, work with tools, and see the results of your work. It’s a practical and skilled field with lots of different jobs to choose from 

Leads to these Careers

  • Elevator Installation and Repair 
  • Commercial Diver 
  • Electrician 
  • Plumber 
  • HVAC Technician 
  • Construction Manager 
  • Pipefitter 
  • Heavy Equipment Operator 
  • Welder 
  • Power Plant Operator 

In-Demand Occupations

Typical Education Required Career Title Average Annual Salary Job Outlook in WA State (2020-2030) 
High School Diploma Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers $59,562 7% increase 
Associate Degree (or Certificate) Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanic $68,932 19% increase 
High School Diploma Automotive Service Technician $54,945 12% increase 
Check Career One Stop, Bureau of Labor Statistics for updated career trends

What Courses can I take now?

Check with your school counselor and administrators to find out which classes are available at your school.

In this course students study the history and development of the application of various power sources to do work. The emphasis is in basic theory and operation of the gasoline engine and the use of basic automotive hand tools and test equipment; e.g., compression tester, vacuum gauge, timing light, hydrometer, volt meter, time pressure gauge, radiator pressure tester, etc.

Course Numbers: HCT7701, HCT1798, HCT1797

Credentials: CTE Dual Credit

CAD Design Engineering 1 & 2 develop problem solving skills, with emphasis on proper drafting technique, development of three-dimensional solids and introduction of industrial manufacturing technology. Software utilized will include Rhinoceros 3D, Surf Cam and Google Sketch up. Manufacturing tech will include CNC routers, Laser Cutters, Engravers, and Rapid Prototyping 3D printers.

Course Numbers: HCT2675, HCT2676

This sequence is a four-year Maritime Program. Classes explore how the successful maritime industry developed in Seattle, with a focus on Ballard, and where the industry is headed in the next century. The course is taught as a project-based curriculum, where the students combine classroom lessons with real-life examples of problems in a marine industry. The students are introduced to a broad spectrum of career opportunities in maritime fields through guest speakers, field trips and problem-solving scenarios. Because of the unique design of the course, students will be required to take thorough notes, participate in classroom activities and field trips, and present information orally to prove they have an understanding of the content material. 

Course numbers: HCT7374, HCT7375, HCT7375, HCT7376 

This course sequence provides basic instruction in metalworking. Students have the opportunity to examine career clusters and develop skills and interest that could lead to employment or a leisure-time activity. Through the construction of suitable projects, students use shop drawings, layout techniques, the drill press, grinder, bandsaw, foundry equipment, welding equipment, and various hand tools. Safety in all shop activities is emphasized. 

Course numbers: HCT7612 & HCT7682; HCT6890 & HCT6892 

Residential Carpentry is a course sequence that prepares individuals to apply technical knowledge and skills to lay out, cut, fabricate, erect, install, and repair wooden structures and fixtures, using hand and power tools. Includes instruction in technical mathematics, framing, construction materials and selection, job estimating, blueprint reading, foundations and roughing-in, finish carpentry techniques, and applicable codes and standards.  

Course numbers: HCT6893, HCT6894

Credentials: OSHA 10 Certification 

This class provides students the opportunity to explore the building and construction trades apprenticeship program. All students will experience hands-on learning indifferent construction apprenticeship programs. Students learn trades related math, how to read blueprints and specifications, write essays, keep a daily journal, demonstrate the use of tools and participate in and practice safe work habits and training. 

Course numbers: HCT8085 

Credentials: CTE Dual Credit

This course prepares students for careers as fire fighters and other emergency service workers. Student cadets leave class able to manage themselves and others during high-stakes emergency events, taking on a sense of responsibility and ownership for positive outcomes. Learn more about our curriculum

Course numbers: WCT6049, WCT6050, WCT6051, WCT6052, WCT6053, WCT6055, WCT6056 

Seattle is home to two of the world’s biggest and most dynamic industries: Aerospace and Maritime manufacturing! Students learn key manufacturing skills used in shipyards and aerospace employers in the Pacific Northwest. Our students learn safety, tool identification and proper use, fastener installation, machining, welding, fabrication, and much more! We help students gain industry experience with the chance to earn college credit and prepare them for an upcoming and fulfilling career in industry. 

Course numbers: WCT5969, WCT5970, WCT5971, WCT5972, WCT5973, WCT5974, WCT5975, WCT5976 

Credentials: CTE Dual Credit 

Are you interested in a hands-on class that requires critical thinking and passion for the auto industry? Gain a solid foundation and employable skills in automotive technology through our automotive classes! Students learn about brake systems, maintenance, and other systems that function within a vehicle. 

Course numbers: WCT6042, WCT6043, WCT6044, WCT6045, WCT4611, WCT4612m WCT4613, WCT4614 

This hands-on course sequence covers both residential and commercial construction with an emphasis on job site safety. Class focuses on employability skills, problem-solving, trainability, team building, while working together to build tiny homes for unhoused people. Students gain experience with the tools and exposure to specialties including: Cement and Masonry, Wood Frame Carpentry, Roofing, Siding, Drywall and Painting, Finish Carpentry, Cabinet Installation, Flooring and Countertops. 

Course numbers: WCT6015, WCT6016, WCT6017, WCT6018, WCT6019, WCT6036, WCT6040, WCT6041 

Learn how to work on ships in Puget Sound! This course blends modern and traditional seamanship and deckhand skills with training in engine maintenance and repair. Students learn what it takes to work on fishing vessels, ferryboats, cargo ships and more. They develop fundamental skills in navigation, tides, currents, boat handling, knots, safety, communications, radar, meteorology, tool use, and marine engine maintenance and repair.  Course work is taught on the water and in the classroom. Students prepare for summer jobs and further training after high school that could result in Coast Guard certification.

Course numbers: WCT4679, WCT4680, WCT4681, WCT4682 

 This production-oriented course sequence provides a foundation to stagecraft skills and safety procedures preparing students for industry and college study of technical theatre. Students receive an introduction to scenic design and construction, lighting, sound, properties, costumes, make-up, special effects, theatre management, stage management, and theatre terminology. Students actively participate as part of a crew to mount a production. Throughout the course students engage in problem solving and collaboration. Students research costuming, properties and set pieces in support of historical accuracy or vision of the production. 

Course Numbers: HCT2615 & HCT2616; CFA2615 & CTA2616; HFA7936 & HFA7937

Costume Design is a course sequence open to all students interested in learning the art of costume design and construction. The course explores how character and story are revealed through costume choices. Costume designers start with character and script analysis and director concepts to develop design concepts. Students collaborate to develop skills in design, drawing, and using a pattern to build a costume. Students gain experience in hand and machine sewing skills to build individual designed pieces. Costume Design Advanced is for students interested in deepening skills in the art of costume design and construction. 

Course numbers: HCT7808, CFA7808, HCT7809, CFA7809 

SKC Animation and Gaming 1A-4B teaches students the fundamentals of computer animation in a 2D and 3D environment. Students learn storyboarding, modeling, lighting, rendering, texture mapping, animation, digital compositing, rigging and posing, visual effects, production techniques and systems for computer animation.

Course numbers: WCT5730, WCT5731, WCT5732, WCT5733

This course sequence in woodworking provides students with the opportunity to work with many of the tools, materials, and processes common to working with wood and wood construction. 

Course numbers: HCT7963, HCT7964 

Clubs and Activities at SPS

Interested in learning more about the Skilled Trades? SPS students have the opportunity to deepen and expand their knowledge alongside theirs and teachers through Skills USA and other equivalent clubs. Skills USA and these other clubs and help students prepare for career and college. Find clubs at your school here

What training do I need after high school?

Below are examples of training and education pathways for students interested in Skilled Trades after high school.

Seattle Central College – Wood Technology Center 

  • Programs: Certificate and Associate Degrees in Carpentry, Cabinet Making, and Marine Carpentry 
  • Features: Hands-on training with a focus on sustainable building practices 
  • Duration: 1-2 years depending on the program 
  • Career Paths: Residential carpenter, cabinet maker, shipwright 

South Seattle College – Automotive Technology 

  • Program: Automotive Technology Associate of Applied Science Degree 
  • Partnerships: Ford ASSET, MOPAR CAP, Toyota T-TEN for specialized training 
  • Duration: 2 years 
  • Outcome: Prepared for careers in automotive repair and service 

Apprenticeships and Union Trade Programs

  • Options: Various local unions and organizations offer apprenticeships in trades like construction, electrical, plumbing, and ironworking 
  • Format: Paid on-the-job training combined with classroom instruction 
  • Duration: Typically 3-5 years 
  • Benefits: Earn while you learn, gain hands-on experience, and secure employment post-training 

Explore the right fit post-secondary pathway for you using the SuperMatch college feature on Naviance

Questions or concerns? Contact specialist Harvey Wright at