Puget Sound Training Center celebrates 20 years

The center provides skills training and employment services to immigrants, refugees and low-income residents.

A local job training center is celebrating 20 years of equipping low-income residents with the necessary skills to enter the workforce.

Puget Sound Training Center, located in Renton, has been providing skills training and employment services to immigrants, refugees and low-income residents throughout King County.

President and CEO of the training center Joseph Drake dreamed up the center two decades ago to help get residents get out of welfare and working sustainable jobs.

“I used to work in the warehouse business,” said Drake. “I knew there was going to be a need not only for immigrants and refugees, but also people of color.”

The center focuses on training individuals in the warehouse and distribution industry by providing programs forklift training, warehouse training, electric pallet jack courses, first aid and more. It also provides case management in various languages for non-English speaking residents, as well as financial coaching and job placement assistance.

In the past 20 years, the center has provided services to over 5,000 clients and placed more than 1,600 into new jobs, according to Drake. In the past fiscal year, it trained 464 clients. About 137 of those clients graduated the training course and 119 were placed in new employment.

Joseph made the training center into reality with the help of Jeff Smith, retired warehouse manager at the Safeway distribution center at Auburn.

“We partnered together to see what we could do to help these people to get into (warehouse and grocery store) positions,” said Smith.

Through their partnership, Safeway donated pallet jacks and racking to the center for training. Smith also helped create a curriculum for those interested in entering the grocery industry.

“With us teaming up with Safeway and them have quality jobs, it was perfect for us,” said Drake. “We could provide good-paying jobs, sustainable jobs for not only the workers, but their families as well.”

Individuals who complete the training at Puget Sound Training Center and apply for a job at Safeway have a leg-up, said Smith.

Success, according to Drake, are stories like of Sergey Alter.

In the 1990s, in the aftermath of dissolved Soviet Union, Alter was in Ukraine. He had a technical college education, however due to the struggling economy at the time, jobs were hard to come by.

He migrated to the United States in 2001 with his family with little knowledge in English, few resources and a hunger to pursue the American dream.

During this transitional period 17 years ago, he found himself at the training center, where he learned the necessary skills to earn a job at the Safeway distribution center.

Alter was the first person to complete and graduate from the training courses and earn a job at the distribution center.

A little less than two decades later, he has worked his way up to a full-time forklift driver and is one of the many stories Drake boasts about.

“There he is — the ultimate goal,” said Drake, pointing at Alter. “Someone who took advantage of all of the opportunities and have followed through to find a job and stuck with it. He’s a great example… these are successes that programs like ours look for.”

“For 16 years, I have taken care of my family. I have a good car, I have saved money for the future, I have money for when my kids go to college,” said Alter. “I have a good salary… that covers all my family.”

“I appreciate Puget Sound Training Center when I didn’t know English and was new to this country,” he continued. “He gave me an opportunity to go to Safeway (that) hired me.”

For more information about the Puget Sound Training Center, visit http://www.pstrainingcenter.com/index.html.

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