When School Board Chair Art Erasmus was in high school, he said he and his peers had two options for after graduation.
“Either you went to university, or you didn’t,” he said.
But times have changed, and students have many different post-high-school-graduation options, including trade schools, colleges, university, or entering straight into the work force. They can even take a laddered approach, alternating a year of school with a year of working in the field, eventually attaining a university degree in the process, he said.
And while more people are aware of the different options for young people, there is still a lingering stigma that university is the only route to success, and that it will take time, education, and resources for that perception to change.
This is just one reason the Coast Mountains School District (CMSD) is continuing its partnership with North West Community College (NWCC), this time hoping to engage students as young as Grade 9 in trades careers.
The two already work together—there are apprenticeship credit programs in the final years of high school, and exploratory programs in Grade 10, like the Intro to Trades program that will take place in February 2013—but they would like that partnership to grow.
“What we would like to see increase, as the college program improves … is to start talking to kids as early as Grade 9 in terms of what the future might hold on the trades side,” said Erasmus, noting that it’s important that students understand their options early so they can plan their high school career accordingly.
The district wants “people from both industry and the college come to the school and talk to kids,” he said. “Because our counsellors are not as well-equipped as people working in those areas to talk to kids about what its like in the future.”
And if the seed is planted in Grade 9, they’ll have time to think about it and decide if they want to participate in the Intro to Trades program in Grade 10.
This program, paid for through one-time skills and development funding, gives students a “real life sample of what the construction sector does, the manufacturing sector does, the mechanical sector, all of these high-demand areas,” said Dean Caron, interim dean of trades at NWCC. And in February, students will take a sample course at the college campus.
“We’ll be getting them familiar with the college setting and directly working in the same place they would be if they were in the program,” he said, noting they would probably go to a residential site to see the different aspects of carpentry as well. Students will also have an opportunity to work with the new technology that the college is set to install following the recent $3 million injection of cash from the province.