High school students in the Nechako Lakes region may soon have guaranteed apprenticeship and work options if School District No.91 secures their proposed five-year solution.
“Two things are important here,” Joan Ragsdale said, career and trades liaison. “We need a memorandum of understanding (MOU) from community partners to look at work opportunities for students. Not a promise but an intent to help seek industry positions for students to apprentice. The other is a five-year pilot project… a commitment from the ministries to run trades programs in the high schools and to ensure those programs are available [consistently].”
Right now SD91 works with CNC to offer high school students work experience through various trades programs. CNC applies for the program and saves seats for students but don’t have a commitment to offer programs continually. Generally, the school doesn’t find out until May or June if the program will even be available in September. If there are not enough applicants or the location is too far away the program may get cancelled all together.
“We want these programs accessible for students and for students to know they’re there for the next five years. In a larger centre [annually] works fine because they have the numbers, but in our smaller centre we really do need that guarantee. ” Ms. Ragsdale said.
If SD91’s proposed solution is backed by the province, one ACE-IT program will be offered every year for five years in the communities of Burns Lake, Vanderhoof and Fort St. James with rotational offerings in Fraser Lake. The career and trades program is looking to highlight trades such as industrial mechanic, pipe fitter, carpentry, welding, heavy duty and culinary. As a junior apprentice, students will have the chance to work on their hours over weekends or summer and then take theory classes in school so to potentially have a certificate by graduation.
“[Right now] we have the guarantee for 4-6 spots in each of the five high schools in our district. We want to raise those numbers, raise the opportunity and secure it so students can plan for it,” Ms. Ragsdale said.
As the official liaison between school and industry partners, Ms. Ragsdale continues to seek support from city councils, First Nations groups and industry and labour across the Nechako Lakes region.
Vanderhoof council agreed to continue their partnership with an MOU in full support of the five-year proposal.
“MOUs will be in place regionally and although Vanderhoof already had a partnership this will be a way to formalize it,” Darren Carpenter said, city councillor and career and trades program co-ordinator.
The District of Vanderhoof also passed a resolution at the Jan.12 meeting to begin the process of working with SD91 for a summer labour position where students will work as an apprentice at the DOV.
“[The five-year plan] will assure young people the funding will be there year after year,” Gerry Thiessen said, mayor of Vanderhoof.
“The problem now is it’s a checkerboard. Are things going to be offered or not? So young people are going through high school and hoping their trade, electrical, plumbing, millwright, will be offered but aren’t sure. If there was continuity for five-year funding then young people could go into their last year’s of high school knowing they’ll have that opportunity. It will mean a lot for industry in the north as well. We are challenged with finding employees for new industries coming to the north. This is the best way to ensure local people take those jobs.”