Construction basics course on Orcas this winter

Trades education is coming to Orcas Island.

After a successful marine tech program in Anacortes earlier this year, the San Juan County Economic Development Council is offering a free construction basics course this winter.

“It can be life-changing,” said EDC Director Victoria Compton. “We had 20 island kids participate in the marine training. Seventeen completed it and most went on to get jobs. Several participants are now able to provide for their families with new higher-wage jobs.”

The EDC partnered with local businesses and education institutions to provide trades education to help fill the gap of skilled workers in the islands. The marine course this past spring was its first endeavor. It was completely free of charge and included transportation to the mainland, books and exam fees. Courses for 2018 will cover electrical and plumbing education.

The construction classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Nov. 28 through Feb. 1. The course will be taught at Orcas Island High School from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. by vocational and woodworking instructor Brett McFarland. The training is geared for high school students and young adults, and will include core construction skills, tool usage and safety. Instruction is open and free to all participants from San Juan County. After completion, the EDC will help students with job placement.

The program is funded by the Orcas Island Community Foundation, Orcas Kiwanis, Islanders Bank, the San Juan County Builders’ Association, Orcas Excavators and Island Excavating. There is no cost for training; pre-registration and a $10 filing fee is required. The deadline to apply is Nov. 17; visit