Penticton students learn tricks of the trade

Pilot program at Princess Margaret Secondary giving 15 students a taste of the building trades

Okanagan College instructor Chuck Edwards (left) coaches students Ryan Combs and Paul Murray on safe use of a table saw. The trio is involved in the Gateway to the Trades program

Okanagan College instructor Chuck Edwards (left) coaches students Ryan Combs and Paul Murray on safe use of a table saw. The trio is involved in the Gateway to the Trades program

Ryan Combs prefers pushing wood through a table saw to pushing a pen across paper, and he’s finally found the school setting in which to do it.

The 16-year-old is enrolled in a 12-week pilot program at Princess Margaret Secondary that’s giving 15 students a taste of the building trades.

“Just sitting behind a desk all day doing book work is not the best for me, so when I found out about this, I took the opportunity to do it,” said Combs.

Although he finished Grade 10, his interest in school had waned so he enrolled in alternate education without a career path in mind. Combs then began the Gateway to the Trades program in February and is now considering following in the footsteps of an uncle who’s an electrician.

“It feels like I want to do that,” he said, “or maybe find a new trade in here.”

David Kalaski, career programs co-ordinator for the Okanagan Skaha School District, said most of the Gateway students struggled in a traditional school environment.

“We have 15 students who, to a large extent, were greatly at risk of not completing secondary school,” Kalaski told a school board committee meeting.

“We needed a shift from what these students were doing in their schools before the program.”

That shift came when they began attending class in an empty woodworking shop at Princess Margaret and Okanagan College sent one of its instructors to run the show.

Students spend 90 minutes a day on math skills, learn about the building trades, take field trips, listen to guest speakers describe the rigours of their careers, and receive training for a handful of safety certificates.

“The intent of all of this at the end of the day is the students walk out the door with an employability tool kit,” Kalaski said.

Instructor Chuck Edwards said he was uncertain what to expect from the program, since it marked his first time as a teacher, so he tried to give the kids a preview of the real world.

“This is how we do it on a job site. If you’re working, you have to be on time, you have to dress appropriately, you have to wear the safety gear. We teach them all that stuff as we’re going,” Edwards explained.

“What we’re trying to do is give them some basics and get them interested in a trade, and from here they can step up into the next course, which would give them their first year of an apprenticeship.”

Gateway is operated by Okanagan College with funding from the B.C. government, although the school district supplies the students and classroom space.

John Haller, the college’s dean of trades, said the institution has offered the program to women and aboriginals, but this version is designed to let kids figure out what they want to do with their lives and also help address Canada’s shortage of skilled workers.

“We’re really pleased so far with what we’ve heard about the program,” Haller said.

Equally pleased is Paul Murray.

The 19-year-old is just a few credits shy of graduation and had been trying to finish up through alternate education because a regular classroom setting hadn’t work for him.

“I needed more of a hands-on approach kind of thing. One-on-one (has) worked a lot better,” he said.

So far, Gateway has helped him brush up on math and carpentry skills, and opened his eyes to the career options available to him. At the moment, he’s leaning towards heavy-duty mechanics or welding.

“The whole reason I got into this program was to find out what I could do, because I didn’t want to sit behind a desk,” Murray said. “I want to do something with my hands.”


Just Posted

Wade Cudmore, seen here with his mother Kathy Richardson, had his first court appearance in relation to first degree murder charges in the deaths of Erick and Carlo Fryer Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Kathy Richardson/Facebook)
Man charged in Naramata double homicide appears in Penticton court

Wade Cudmore appeared for the first time in relation to first degree murder charges

(John Arendt - Black Press)
Penticton wants to give you money to make something fun happen in the city

City launches community grant program to help post-COVID recovery

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

With high temperatures forecasted for the week and into the next, Interior Health is offering some tips on how to keep yourself safe from heat-related illness. (Pixabay)
Interior Health offers safety tips as temperatures soar

‘Too much heat can be harmful to your health’

The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)
5-storeys still too tall for Penticton’s downtown, votes city council

Vote against new development leaves one councillor questioning validity of city’s zoning restrictions

A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the Number 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021. Human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 denounced by China as “politically motivated” and based on “lies.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Schiefelbein
VIDEO: Trudeau demands truth from China about Uyghurs

PM says Canada has admitted broken Indigenous relationship, unlike China on Uyghurs

Council members and witnesses from the Hupacasath First Nation, left, and Tseshaht First Nation, right, prepare to raise their respective flags in front of Port Alberni City Hall on Monday, June 21, 2021. The flags will permanently fly as part of the city’s reconciliation work. See more coverage from the flag raising ceremony on page A5. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Vancouver Island First Nations flags to fly permanently at city hall

Addition of flags are one Port Alberni response to reconciliation

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, middle right, participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honour of the launch of Kelowna’s plasma donor centre at Orchard Plaza Mall on June 22. From left to right: Canadian Blood Services’ business development manager Janna Pantella, Canadian Blood Services’ operational excellence manager Tyler Burke, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Canadian Blood Services’ centre manager Janine Johns. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
B.C.’s first dedicated plasma donor centre opens in Kelowna

The Kelowna location is the third dedicated plasma donor to open in Canada

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice, and provides Kelowna Capital News with weekly stories from the world of local, national and international law. (Contributed)
Kootnekoff: Access to justice and residential schools in Canada

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, her diverse legal career spans over 20 years

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk in the classroom and in the community identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton

Mayla Janzen and Ashley Hoppichler, with her daughters Lily and Sophia, are bringing a Friday evening market to Polson Park, starting July 2. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Entrepreneurs craft up Vernon night market

Friday evening Polson Park event to take place throughout the summer

Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian and Tina William lead the Every Child Matters March in Enderby Monday, June 21. (Lyndsey Leon photo)
Hundreds march with Splatsin in Enderby for #215

300 orange-shirt wearing people of all backgrounds turned out in support

Most Read