Students sample trades at Vancouver School Board event

School board showcases trades as career options

Sonia Nand wants to be model. Or an automotive mechanic.

The 15-year-old John Oliver student hasn’t explored modelling yet but she has taken an automotive course and on Tuesday, along with 27 teenaged boys, she participated in the Vancouver School Board’s second annual Trades Sampler event to try her hand at carpentry, automotive and metal work.

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Being the only girl doesn’t bother her, she said. She was also the sole girl in her automotive class. Nand built a wall and changed the oil in a car at JO Tuesday morning. After lunch, which featured a talk by home builder Joel Massey, she joined in the symphony of squeaky scraping in the metal shop, sawing a section of band iron she welded into a name or door tag.

Metalwork sparks 14-year-old Keiran Clironomos’s imagination. “I find it more interesting to do the welding than nailing stuff together with wood,” said the Lord Byng student who wore a black Led Zeppelin hoodie.

The Trades Sampler day, funded by the provincial government’s Industry Training Authority, is meant to give students from around the district a taste of potential career paths.

“A lot of the times you ask a Grade 12 student, ‘What can you do after high school?’ and everybody says college or university,” said Peter Orlandi, VSB apprenticeship teacher in career programs and co-organizer of the event. “They’re great options but there are more options.”

Orlandi, who was a machinist and volunteered in schools before he became a teacher, notes working in the trades doesn’t mean getting your hands dirty. He says it’s incorrect to characterize trades as a mere alternative for those who aren’t academically inclined. “Some [trades] are very theory intense,” he said. “There’re some electricians doing very complicated wiring and sensors and alarm systems.”

Orlandi notes trades not only suit people with strong teamwork skills but also those who want to be their own boss.

Karen Larsen, career education coordinator for the VSB, says the provincial government predicts one million job openings in B.C. by 2020, with 430,000 of them in trades and technology, which includes IT, medical imaging technicians and land surveyors. That means two out of three graduates until then need to study trades and technology if the jobs are to go to people from B.C. That’s not happening now.  Larsen said there are 154 different trades in B.C., more than 50 Red Seal trades, the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.

Tuesday’s Trades Sampler was the first of four planned for this school year, with others focused for female and aboriginal students.

The school board offers a dozen ACE IT, or accelerated credit enrolment in industry training, programs that allow Grade 12 students to complete their first year of post-secondary training for free. There are secondary school apprenticeships and there’s a program at Tupper secondary called Tupper Tech that teaches basic trades skills and helps students link to a post-secondary program or apprenticeship.

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