Greyback gives students a hands-on experience

A unique job-shadow project is providing a group of students the chance to gain hands-on training

Kayla Blanchard

Kayla Blanchard

A unique job-shadow project is providing a group of students from Okanagan College’s Residential Construction program the chance to gain hands-on training as they build a high-end home in the South Okanagan.

The class of 11 students, under the guidance of instructor David Lovisa, is helping construct a home at the Skaha Hills development in Penticton. The project arose as a job-shadow opportunity through Greyback Construction Ltd., the company overseeing the development of the resort-residential project overlooking Skaha Lake on the Penticton Indian Band reserve.

“They are working side-by-side with experienced tradespeople and so their work has to be just as precise as the men and women beside them with many more years of experience,” said Lovisa.

Shaun McCafferty, superintendent for Greyback Construction, said they are pleased to be able to support the program. “Job-shadowing and mentorship opportunities like this provide students with opportunities for real-world training and we believe that is important.”

For student Kayla Blanchard, the project has helped her to develop confidence on the job site, as well as her carpentry skills.

“This opportunity to shadow with Greyback has been amazing,” said Blanchard. “I’ve learned so much while working on this project. I’m really proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished.”

Blanchard credits her two-year-old son as her inspiration for going back to school to pursue a new career as a carpenter. She encourages other women to consider the trades as a career path.

“If you’ve ever wanted to get into a trade, now is a great time,” says Blanchard. “Go for it. Believe in yourself. I’ve learned that there is nothing I can’t accomplish.”

Her classmate Drake Sylvestre hopes to pursue a career in residential construction in the Okanagan; he acknowledged the value of hands-on training offered by the project with Greyback.

“I’d like to thank Greyback for accepting Okanagan College students on site and allowing us to shadow them and build a house,” he says. “Until you’ve done it, you don’t know how great it feels to actually build somebody’s home and see that come together.”

The 26-week Residential Construction program provides students with the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge to seek employment as apprentice carpenters in the construction industry. As Lovisa notes, the focus is on developing practical skills for the construction workplace.

“Having a chance to contribute to a project like this, and to learn by doing, is absolutely invaluable for students at this stage of their training,” explained Lovisa.

The home the class is helping to build is expected to be finished in early June.

Okanagan College is the second largest trades training institution in the province. The college is currently embarking on a $33-million renovation and expansion of its trades training complex in Kelowna. The Bright Horizons Building for Skills Fundraising Campaign was launched in October of last year to raise an additional $7 million for capital construction costs to supplement the B.C. government’s $28-million investment.