New equipment boosts trades program at Spectrum school

Ciara Pereira performed the so-called “ribbon cutting” Wednesday in the revamped Spectrum Community School shop area, using a plasma cutter to slice through a metal banner.

The 18-year-old Grade 12 student said the new equipment in the Spectrum shop will make a huge difference, since some of the replaced items were past their prime. “It’s really amazing to use and everything works.”

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Pereira said she is interested in a career in the sheet-metal trade, and has been taking trades courses since Grade 8.

“It is something I enjoy,” she said.

She said she has heard that trades training can be a good way to land a job, and she is undeterred by being a woman in what has traditionally been a man’s world.

“It’s mostly a men’s job, which makes it a little intimidating to go into, but one of the good things about this environment in this school is that I feel welcome to do it,” she said.

Associate superintendent Greg Kitchen said the Greater Victoria school district has been improving secondary- and middle-school shop areas over the past two years.

Similar work is being done on school shops around B.C. in a partnership involving the province, school districts and the Industry Training Authority, which contributed $15 million to the Youth Trades Capital Equipment Program.

The Greater Victoria school district has received a three-year grant of $850,000 from the program and $100,000 from the Canadian Welding Bureau Foundation, along with technical support from Seaspan, Camosun College and others. The district is also investing $600,000 of its own money.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said there is a good employment situation for people with trades training.

“In Greater Victoria, we have an aerospace industry here, we have a vibrant shipbuilding industry here and there’s tonnes of construction going on,” he said. “It’s great to see young people working on new tools, getting ready for careers in the trades.

“There’s lots of jobs out there — highly skilled, highly paid jobs.”

School board chairwoman Jordan Watters said students deserve the best equipment.

“We know that safe, clean, innovative trade spaces really benefit not just our students, but our community and the workforce,” she said. “This is going to allow them to have really spot-on, hands-on learning.”

Watters said the growing number of girls taking trades programs in schools is encouraging. “So 36 per cent of our students in auto tech, 28 per cent of our Youth Train in Trades apprentices and 18 per cent of our aviation students are young women.”

Kitchen said the Spectrum shop has had strong backing in the community and has grown from four welding bays to nine. “And very soon right here will be a very high-tech wheel-alignment system for our automotive program.”

Other shops have also been well served, he said.

“In our woodworking shops we had traditional table saws,” he said. “We were able to, in a relatively quick window of time, replace those all with saw-stop technology,” which shuts down the saw when it detects a hand.

“It makes our shops a lot safer for our staff and our students.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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