District wins apprenticeship award

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The Gulf Islands School District’s apprenticeship program had a lot to celebrate on Feb. 26 at an awards gala night presented by the Industry Training Authority, the provincial regulator for trades and technical education.

The school district was presented with the Youth in Trades Performance Award for having the highest enrolment in the Youth Work in Trades Program in the Vancouver Island region. In attendance were 48 students, educators, local tradespeople, parents and ITA representatives.

“[The ITA] said there were more people in our little room than they would often get out to one of these dinners in Surrey. That is a testament to our community and why we’re able to be so successful,” said Shari Hambrook, work experience and apprenticeship teacher at Gulf Islands Secondary School. “When [employers] bring on board a young student and register them as an apprentice, they bring them into their family. There’s a very close connection that is formed as they train the young people.”

The award included a $5,000 grant that can be used to support the program.

The Youth Work in Trades Program allows students to begin working in trades while they are still in high school. Around 80 per cent of their learning takes place at the job site, and 20 per cent in the classroom.

“Career programs represent a strong bridge between school and community,” said Maggie Allison, the manager of career development and community initiatives at the school district. “The mentorship that students receive on job sites and in places of business prepares them for success and strengthens their transition from school to life beyond.”

The ITA counted the number of apprentices registered in the program in June 2018 and compared the percentage to other schools in the area. Hambrook said that at the time of the count, 13 students were registered in the program.

“We had about 130 kids in the grad class and my goal has been to ensure that at least 10 per cent of the kids were well on their way to graduating before they leave high school,” she said.

The event included a gala dinner at the Harbour House Hotel and award presentations for both the school district and students who had completed over 900 hours of workplace training in their programs. The students are presented with a $1,000 award for finishing their hours. Six apprentices were presented with the award at the event.

The average age for new apprentices in Canada is around 27 years old, according to data from Stats Canada. Hambrook explained that people tend to get certifications later in their 20s after working odd jobs and pursuing other interests.

“These kids are starting when they’re 16 or 17, and that’s a big leap,” she said. “These kids are starting with their certificate. They may last in the industry for 10 years, or they may travel and bounce around, but they will always have that certificate.”

The district has the second highest number of students that have been introduced to the trades through its various programs. These include things like the Women in Trades field trip to Camosun on Feb. 20, the robotics program and other trades-oriented classes. Allison starts working with kids in Grade 6 and continues their exposure to the trades through high school.

“Maggie Allison . . . has had a vision for trades training in high school and it has been unbelievable how much work she has done to create that vision,” Hambrook said.

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