Apprenticeship Corner: Navigator Karen Dhaliwal strengthens pipeline between programs and employers

Posted: May 21, 2018

If you’re interested in an apprenticeship career path, it can be tough to know how to get started. That’s where Bates Technical College’s Apprenticeship Navigator Karen Dhaliwal comes in.

Apprenticeship Navigator Karen Dhaliwal champions the pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship pathways

As a navigator, her goal is to help strengthen the pipeline between programs and employers, bring awareness of pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships to staff, and also help the community understand the educational opportunities at Bates. Dhaliwal works under the American Apprenticeship Initiative (AAI) grant, a grant that helps various entities increase efforts to expand high-quality apprenticeships.

Dhaliwal says she encourages diverse populations, such as those who are a part of the LGBTQ group, single mothers, veterans, people of color, the formerly incarcerated, and youth, to consider Bates programs as a pathway to a successful career in a technical industry.

Here’s a peak into recent student successes, and what’s on the horizon in pre-apprenticeship.

TOOL Center program connects graduate to rewarding apprenticeship

TOOL Center graduate Damar McCall is now a member of the roofers union.

Damar McCall is a student who has overcome so many barriers. When he came to me inquiring about Bates, the route for a career education program was not a good fit for him. He had a family to take care of and wanted a way to provide for them. He gave the pre-apprenticeship program a chance and gained so many skills. After the 12-week Trade Occupations Opportunity Learning (TOOL) Center program, he is now a graduate and is an apprentice working for Local153 Roofers Union. He is very grateful that he gave Bates a chance.



Graduate Damar McCall is a proud TOOL Center graduate

Washington State Apprenticeship and Trades Council recognizes the good work of the TOOL Center program

The Pre-apprenticeship TOOL Center was up for continued recognition with the Washington State Apprenticeship Council. Coordinator Kwanna Wise took the lead with the paperwork process, and Karen Dhaliwal helped support the effort.

Assistant Vice President and Executive Dean of South Campus Brandon Rodgers and City of Tacoma Contract and Program Auditor Christopher Wright represented the college.

What is on the horizon?

  • The Apprenticeship Navigator Karen is currently working on strengthening partnerships for the Information Technology programs on Central/Mohler Campus.
  • The navigator is also assisting programs like Electrical Construction, Sheet Metal Technology, Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technology, and Facility Maintenance Engineer with recruitment efforts, and Karen is also continuing to promote apprenticeship workshops for college employees.


The navigator coordinates with an informal community group of storytellers who are impacted by the prison system. The group also helps connect individuals who are transitioning out of jail or prison to college programs like GED, Adult Basic Education courses, career education programs, pre-apprenticeship, and apprenticeship opportunities to enhance their skills and help them prepare for a successful career.

Numbers2Names group features community members and navigators

Community presentations

Karen has also presented at several community organizations, which helps bring awareness to the college’s career education programs, pre-apprenticeship programs in our state,  and apprenticeship programs located at the college. One of her deliverables is to help assist women and men of color in the trades for the ambassador programs with the Center of Excellence.

Goodwill’s REACH Center

Iron workers connection

We have continued to maintain a strong rapport with the Local 86 Iron Workers, who rent space at Bates Technical College for apprenticeship training. These students, in addition to earning a certificate, have the opportunity to earn a degree in Apprenticeship Studies. The degree path can be a great option for those who are interested in pursuing a supervisory, inspector or other positions.

Iron workers Local 86 group photo

Future projects

We are working on a conference about “Elephant in the Room,” which is focused on bringing awareness to diversity and bias in apprenticeship fields.

To learn more about apprenticeships or pre-apprenticeship training, contact Karen Dhaliwal at kdhaliwal @