Students retool for trades careers

High school students learn the basics of trades jobs through 12-week program.

Myshala Wile in the shop during the School 2 Work program.

Myshala Wile in the shop during the School 2 Work program.

Eleven students have put down their tools after completing a 12-week program that gave them a taste of what it takes to be a tradesperson.

During the School 2 Work Through the Building Trades program, the high school students learned the basics of jobs like carpentry and plumbing, brushed up on math, earned first-aid and other safety certificates, and mapped out plans to get into the workforce.

The program was offered by the Okanagan Skaha School District in partnership with the Southern Interior Construction Association, which provided instructor Tony Hetman to lead the course.

Career programs co-ordinator David Kalaski said the district has previously offered different versions of the program in conjunction with Okanagan College, but this was the first such collaboration with industry. He said the new partnership struck a cord with students, who got to hear first-hand from people currently working in the trades.

“These are individuals exactly like the students they were speaking to, but 20 years older and they’re saying, ‘Here’s how I got here. Here’s what I enjoy.’ It’s that message that’s important to the students,” said Kalaski.

“What really makes this program strong is organizations like SICA, Greyback Construction, the Industry Training Authority, all those other groups in our community that come together … and support this program down the road.”

School 2 Work was designed to help students who prefer hands-on instruction to book work, he continued, or for whom regular school just wasn’t working.

Among them was Myshala Wile, 19, who graduated last June but has two kids and wasn’t able to finish an earlier introduction-to-the-trades program.

“I was really kind of down on myself about that … so this time I had more motivation to finish it,” she said Friday during an exit interview event with community partners.

“It’s all about pushing myself right now.”

Wile is already signed up to attend Okanagan College in February to study welding, a trade with which she is fascinated.

“I like creating something from metal. It’s not something everyone can do,” she said. “I see it as an art.”

Dylan Berdine-Carrier, 17, is planning to pursue a career as an electrician, a trade he became interested in after being introduced to it through School 2 Work.

“When I’d go home, I’d be excited to come in the next day and finish what I started, make the circuits work and problem-solve like that.”

He said School 2 Work taught him the importance of punctuality and helped him excel outside of a regular classroom setting.

“Working with my hands is more interesting that sitting in a class looking at a textbook,” said Berdine-Carrier.