March 25, 2013
Program primes high school students for the trades
For the remainder of this school year, 15 high school students in Sooke, B.C. will spend every school day learning seven trades, nailing both high school and college credits in the process.
Known as the Trades Awareness, Skills and Knowledge (TASK) Program, the training takes place at Edward Milne Community School (EMCS) four days a week.
The fifth day is spent at Camosun College in Victoria, where training is ramped up in the well-equipped environment.
Camosun has partnered with the Sooke School District, as well as the Victoria, Saanich, Gulf Islands and Cowichan School Districts, to deliver the five-month program for grades 10 to 12.
Eighty students from the school districts are participating this year, said Olaf Nielsen, Camosun’s trades training development co-ordinator.
“We view it as a capacity-building program,” he said.
Over the next decade, more than one million job openings in B.C. are predicted, with about 430,000 expected to be trades or technical occupations, according to B.C.’s Ministry of Jobs.
Aware of the growing need for qualified tradespeople, the high schools and Camosun worked together to create the program as a way to give students hands-on experience that will fast-track them into the industry, said EMCS vice-principal Mike Huck.
“There’s so much choice for students today. We needed a creative way to get students interested in the trades,” said Huck, a former logger who became an educator after a serious workplace accident.
“We wanted a program that would pique students’ interest in school, so they could think about what they want to do.”
There’s no shortage of trades training at the post-secondary level, Nielsen noted.
The gap was in high school, but now TASK allows students to sample trades.
“Students can explore, touch things, feel things. They have the opportunity to learn what a sheet metal worker or electrician does,” said Nielsen, a bricklayer with 30 years of contracting and teaching experience.
Students learn carpentry, drywall/insulation, electrical, joinery, painting, plumbing and sheet metal.
They’re also offered Industry Certificate Courses such as WHMIS, fall arrest, First Aid OFA Level 1, flag person, Hilti fastening (power actuated), construction safety training system and confined space training.
Students earn credits for four high school courses, college courses and two work experience courses and can earn up to 32 credits in one semester, double the norm, Huck said.
“This program is a win-win,” he said.
To be accepted into TASK, students are interviewed by high school and Camosun staff.
The first semester is spent learning core academic courses.
During the second semester, students focus exclusively on TASK.
This is the second year for TASK at EMCS.
“No one wants to leave,” Huck said.
At EMCS, students do their sawing and measuring in the decommissioned auto shop, one trade that’s become prohibitive to teach due to the high cost of ever-changing diagnostic equipment for modern vehicles.
Leading the 15 students, two of whom are female, is Corinna Zimmermann, a teacher whose areas of expertise include metalworking, woodworking, electronics and drafting.
“This is an excellent opportunity to get real-life experience,” she said.
Unlike a few decades ago, students typically don’t have the opportunity to work in the family shed or tinker with cars or tools, and thus get hands-on familiarity with trade-type pursuits.
TASK hones students’ problem-solving abilities and emphasizes why solid math skills are essential, Zimmermann said.
Student Samuel Southwood always knew trades were his calling, with electrical his first choice.
“This program is a good opportunity to get into it,” he said.
Christopher Amundson, a legally blind student, is taking the program to see if he can keep up with his classmates.
He’s been successful. Amundson is able to work by looking closely at whatever he’s doing.
Chelsey Dixon opted for TASK to learn more about painting. While it’s been fun, what’s better is learning valuable fix-it skills that she can show off at home.
For George Baker, it’s the hands-on work that drew him.
“I’m interested in all of the trades,” said Baker, who’s keen to escape “boring” classrooms.
Zack Bryan discovered his taste for the trades while working with his dad over the summer. He enjoyed it, much more than his part-time job at Wal-Mart.
“With the trades training under my belt, I’ll have more options,” he said.
In mid-February, the students started building a large shed in the old auto shop for an actual client.
The customer paid for the material (which is bought at cost) plus an extra 10 per cent.
Huck has been impressed by the students’ solid work.
“The students are all gung-ho,” Zimmermann added.
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