Entering the trades while in high school can set you up in multiple ways, says Nick Pringle.
Being a skilled tradesperson on Salt Spring Island has allowed Pringle to stay here, work on unique projects and now own his own company with a crew of six, and it all started in high school.
A fifth-generation Salt Spring Islander, Pringle went to work for Perry Booth and Lancer Contracting in 2014. School counsellors suggested he gain credits for that work through Camosun College.
“So I graduated first year of college prior to high school,” he laughed.
Pringle went on to get his Red Seal qualification in carpentry and incorporated his company in 2020.
Pringle has now brought on Finley Lesosky, a Grade 12 Gulf Islands Secondary School (GISS) student in the Trades, Awareness, Skills and Knowledge (TASK) program, who spends his Fridays on the job site. Lesosky has his sights set on getting his Red Seal in carpentry, but also wants to try out other trades to see if exposure to them changes his mind.
Grade 11 student Jahluca Grooms took the TASK program in Grade 10. This is when most students start the 20-week-long program, where they spend the semester building structures under 100 square feet in size and trying out electrical, welding, fabrication sheet metal, heavy duty mechanic and plumbing trades.
It starts with the very basics, said Maggie Allison, who manages career development and community initiatives with the district, with students building their own sawhorses, then doing a concrete pour and continuing to assemble the buildings. The rest of the trades are learned either in 18-wheeler trucks carrying mobile classrooms that come to Salt Spring or with students going over to Camosun to learn.
The program is run like a job site, Allison said. Students need to come on time, put their phones away and can’t be absent except in the case of “blood, bones, barf.” Now added to those three Bs is “C” for COVID-19 symptoms.
This rigorous approach sets students up for Fridays, which they spend on real job sites. By the end of the school year or towards the next one, students can then sign up as youth apprentices with local companies.
“What that does is springboard kids into Work In Trades, which is another [Industry Training Authority] program,” Allison said.
As apprentices, students gain on-the-job training while earning up to 16 credits towards their high school diploma, and log those hours towards their trades credentials.
By the second semester of Grade 12, Allison said, students can take a first year in technical training in their chosen trade, tuition free, at Camosun or another college in a place where they have family members.
Grooms ended up doing his Friday work experience and spent the following summer working with Elevated Construction. He now wants to take woodwork and fine furniture courses at Camosun, which together with his carpentry and TASK experience will prepare him to set up a small business converting vans into tiny homes on wheels.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. The people who run the program are really nice,” Grooms said of his TASK experience.
“It’s really different. It’s a lot more physical work rather than mental work. We’re always outside, active rather than sitting inside and learning,” Lesosky said. “Both ways I get a lot of new information. I learn a lot.”
Participating in high school trades training also has benefits outside of work. Pringle gutted and renovated a home he bought on his own, while Grooms has done mechanical work on a car he bought this summer, as well as helping his mom with some electrical problems in her house.
For the past nine years TASK operated out of the poultry barn at the Farmers’ Institute, which meant instructors had to construct and then disassemble a warm classroom every year so it could be used for poultry. The program has now moved to a new home in the shop and grounds at Salt Spring Island Middle School (SIMS).