Training tactics part 2: Thornhill Jr. could become trades centre

A vacant school set up with equipment. A community in need of a facility. School board officials say a trades centre there makes sense.

COAST Mountains School District (CMSD) wants to see if turning Thornhill Jr. Secondary school into a northwest trades training centre for students is a viable idea – but it needs to find money to complete that study first.

“We have the idea that we want to develop a regional trades and employment school for kids that are going towards graduation so they can get prepared for work,” school board chair Art Erasmus said late last month. “But before we can actually do that, we need to do a feasibility study to figure out exactly what kind of program we would have, who we would recruit to it, where it would be housed, what we would need for equipment, etc.

“And for that, we need a bunch of money,” he said.

Thornhill Jr. Secondary is at the top of the list of potential locations for this centre, should the study deem it feasible, Erasmus said.

“We have Thornhill Jr. Secondary school that is empty and closed,” he said. “But if you’re teaching anything about trades in a building you’d have some equipment in there to build things.”

That’s where continuing its partnership with the college could come in.

The CMSD and Northwest Community College already combine resources to offer various trades training programs for high school students. One, the Intro to Trades program offered to Grade 10 students, has students spending a semester at the college alternating between time in its shop and time  in the classroom.

If a high school trades training centre were to become a reality, it’s likely the college would continue to play a role.

Determining the specifics of this role would be part of the feasibility study.

Other preliminary ideas include space for students to complete certificate courses to help them find employment – certificates to operate equipment and to handle hazardous materials, as well as drivers’s licences

“Those would more likely fit into a classroom setting than a shop setting,” Erasmus said.

Erasmus says district officials have been on a “full court press” courting government and industry.

“We’re hoping to get that money over time from any of three provincial government ministries (the ministry of jobs, tourism and skills training; ministry of education; ministry of advanced education), and hopefully with some contributions from some industry, because they are the ones who are going to be the beneficiaries as well as the students that are going to go to that school,” he said.

But while the idea of a regional trades training centre has been warmly received by various government officials, there has been no promise of government money for the study.

“The government has so far said, we like your idea, we know this would help kids to get kids where they need to go, but we don’t have any money,” Erasmus said.

An education ministry official confirmed that it’s aware of the idea and said the ministry encourages school’s to develop partnerships with local post-secondary institutions and industry. “These opportunities go hand in hand, it’s not just the ministry of education and the school district,” said the staffer. “There has to be industry involvement as well as involvement from post-secondary institutions.”

The government also suggests the district include its request in this year’s annual capital plan request. A similar trades and technology centre is set to open in Kamloops, following provincial money for the project announced in December of last year.

As for money from industry, that could be coming once a policy is established.

“Every so often we get approached from some of the industries that are working in our area that want to leave a legacy. We’re going to talk to them about that,” said Erasmus.

The district is currently working on a policy that would guide how the district handles and receives corporate funding.



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