Trades training provides a head start for Powell River students

School District 47 program wins Industry Training Authority award

School District 47 has received the Industry Training Authority (ITA) Youth Work in Trades Performance Award for the highest number of students in trades training in its region.

Aaron Reid, chairperson of the Powell River Board of Education, said the board would like to commend district staff for the hard work and dedication that has gone into the trades program from the very beginning.

“Powell River was a front-runner in developing this type of programming and our staff is always working towards the goal of providing the richest growth and learning opportunities for our students,” said Reid. “The recognition is nice and some extra funding is always welcome. The important piece, however, is that our students are making use of the program and finding it a valuable component of their K-12 educational journey. That's the ultimate success.”

The award includes $5,000 in additional funding to assist the school district in further developing its Youth Work in Trades program.

Brooks Secondary School vice principal Tanya Larkin said community support has been essential to the program. A plethora of tradespeople and businesses are involved, which, combined with ITA and the school district, benefit students, she added.

“It varies every year depending on how many students or applicants we have who want to go into the trades but pretty much any business in Powell River, if they can get their hands on a young student who wants to apprentice and learn under them, they’re willing to take them on,” said Larkin. “Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to run these classes and we wouldn’t have our students out working in industry and having summer employment, or continued employment after graduation. We are all tied together.”

Larkin said it is a win-win for everyone involved. As students work toward getting their 80 hours toward graduation, they can take the trades courses. Business community members who take on a student and are willing to sign off on the hours have a possible new, mouldable employee once the student completes level one or their foundations program.

“We have these young students who maybe realize they are hand-on learners and that maybe they are going to transition into a trade,” added Larkin. “Students can get a job in industry and as they are working they are being paid; they are getting a four-credit course, and, if their employer is a red-seal journeyman, he or she can sign off on level one hours for that student.”

Larkin said the program has been around for more than a decade and is gaining momentum.

“We are looking for people to be working in the trades, and there is demand, even though we are experiencing COVID, there is still a high demand so people are always looking for apprentices,” she added. “They can mould them. They don’t have bad habits, they’re young, they want to work hard, they need to get their foot in the door, and they are keen.”

By starting an apprenticeship while still in high school, students in the program are putting themselves ahead of the curve, according to Larkin.

“It means they could be a journeyman sooner; if they start when they are 18, they could be a red-seal journeyman at the age of 22,” explained Larkin. “Because of what we offer in grade 12, a student could sign up and take one of our foundation programs, so that means their first year of schooling in the trade.”

“Also, if they graduate with a C-plus average in their grade 12 classes, the government will give them a $1,000 scholarship they can use on anything they want, as long as they have taken the foundation program; it’s amazing.”

Jim Palm, career education teacher for School District 47, said over the past 15 years, he has been directly involved with putting more than 750 students through trades programs in auto service, carpentry, culinary arts, hairdressing and welding.

“It never ceases to amaze me how engaged, focused and happy our students are during their skills development in each trade,” said Palm. “It is a real bonus connecting with past graduates to hand them a $1,000 Youth Work in Trades scholarship from the ITA and the ministry of education for 900-plus hours of paid work as they progress on their apprenticeship road. It’s simply an amazing head start on life.” 

In a media release, BC minister of advanced education, skills and training Melanie Mark congratulated the Powell River school district for partnering with the ITA in order to deliver the highest standard of trades training to students in the region.

“Our government is helping support BC youth in every corner of the province to explore dynamic career opportunities in the trades while also acquiring their high school credentials,” stated Mark. “I am so proud of all the young people who are pushing the envelope and finding their passion in the trades. As minister, I sincerely believe that a red seal certification is just as valuable as a degree.” 

ITA’s chief executive officer Shelley Gray, in the media release, thanked all partners for helping students on a path to success.

“The Powell River school district, teachers and employers in the program are providing students with crucial hands-on experience that is required for their apprenticeship training,” stated Gray. 

While leading and coordinating BC’s skilled trades system, ITA works with apprentices, employers, industry, labour, training providers and government to fund training, issue credentials, support apprenticeships, set program standards and increase opportunities in the trades.

For more information about the Youth Work in Trades program, go to and search under Programs and Services/Counselling Department.

Copyright © Powell River Peak

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