Like most other American high school students, Garret Morgan had it drummed into him constantly: Go to college. Get a bachelor's degree.
"All through my life it was, 'If you don't go to college you're going to end up on the streets,' " Morgan said back in 2018. "Everybody's so gung-ho about going to college."
So he tried it for a while. Then he quit and started training as an ironworker, which is what he was doing on a weekday morning in a nondescript high-ceilinged building with a concrete floor in an industrial park near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Morgan and several other men and women were dressed in work boots and hard hats, clipped to safety harnesses with heavy wrenches hanging from their belts. They were being timed as they wrestled 600-pound I-beams into place.
Back then, the demand for ironworkers was rising – and it still is: the sector is growing 4% annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ironworkers earn, on average, $27.48 per hour, or $57,160 per year. Morgan was already working on a job site when he wasn't at the Pacific Northwest Ironworkers shop. At 20, he was earning $28.36 an hour, plus benefits.
Five years later, he's on the job full time, working "six-10s" — industry lingo for 10 hours a day, six days a week. He helped build the Rainier Square Tower in Seattle and a data center for Microsoft. "I'm loving it every day," he said. "It was absolutely the right choice.
As for his friends from high school? "Someday maybe they'll make as much as me."
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