While the B.C. government encourages students to pursue careers in trades through recent post-secondary investments, a local program by the Greater Victoria school district is helping high schoolers transition to university-level trades programs.
TASK – which stands for Trades Awareness, Skills and Knowledge – serves high school students in five school districts on Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island, introducing them to carpentry, electrical, sheet metal, welding and plumbing. Currently in its fifth year, the semester-long program runs out of Lambrick Park secondary and is open to students from other high schools on the Island.
“It’s basically designed for a student that loves to work with their hands and their head and has a general interest in going into the construction sector, but they don’t really know what trade they want to go into,” said Nicola Priestley, careers and transitions coordinator with the GVSD.
According to Priestley, TASK was started to lead students into tuition-free dual credit ACE IT programs, which allow students to complete their first year of trades technical training before they graduate high school.
“Within 13 different trades, we have these opportunities for our students to go to Camosun and take the first year of these different trades while they’re still in high school,” she said.
Lambrick grad Madelyn Batters took the TASK program in 2014 while she was still attending Mt. Douglas secondary. Naturally inclined toward mechanics, Batters had taken all the available shop classes and joined TASK on the recommendation of her principal.
“I was kind of set in one trade path and I hadn’t really been immersed in any other trades,” she said. “I didn’t get to do any hands-on experience until the TASK program, and it kind of showed me a few other avenues that I could take.”
Batters ended up liking electrical work more than mechanics, pursuing the field in her 236-hour work experience with a local electrical company. She also switched from Mt. Doug to Lambrick to finish her senior year.
“I was still really interested in mechanics and I was like, what trade can I take that is in this course that’s going to help me with mechanics?” she recalled. “I thought electrical because there are a lot of electrical components to vehicles.
“I got to work with a lot of experienced journeymen. They had lots of little tips and tricks and they got to see how I worked. They bought me a toolkit at the end of my term and they told me I could come back.”
Though she has a standing job offer, Batters first has to complete her post-secondary education. She’s already set to start Camosun’s electrical foundation program in the spring – excellent timing, as the college is opening its $30 million Centre for Trades Education and Innovation early this year, partly funded by the province.
She doesn’t have her future entirely mapped out, but Batters has set a the goal of getting her Red Seal within five years, and she’s eager to see where the electrical trade takes her.
“That’s the cool thing about electrical and most trades – you can pretty much move all over Canada and get a job,” she said.