A Selkirk College job skills pilot project has introduced a group of 16 students to industrial and trades careers, ultimately changing lives in the process.
The Pathways to Employment in Trades & Industry Program brought together students of diverse backgrounds from across the West Kootenay in early-November for a 19-week exploratory program that provided essential job success strategies and hands-on trades training. Partnering with the Industry Training Authority (ITA) and funded by the Canada-British Columbia Job Fund, the program wrapped up on March 24 and is being heralded as a tremendous success.
After participating in the Selkirk College Pathways to Employment in Trades & Industry Program, (L-R) Sadie Stewart, Emma Johnson and Zack Howes have all been accepted into the Selkirk College Metal Fabrication Foundation Program on Nelson’s Silver King Campus.
“They have taught us everything we need to know to get a job,” says 22-year-old Zack Howes, who quit his job as a labourer in Trail to enter the program. “The instructors and people running the course make you feel safe when you are talking to them. They are very respectful, encouraging and they don’t want to see you fail, so they help you all the way through. It has been life changing.”
Opening an Array of Future Opportunities
Under the direction of Selkirk College Electrical Program instructor Julie-Claire Hamilton, the 16 students started the program in the classroom by taking personal interest and skills inventories, and embarking on career exploration. Students learned about employer expectations, effective job search skills, entry-level trades’ math and navigating computers.
“It’s helped me a lot with responsibility and being able to show up every day,” says 23-year-old Emma Johnson, who grew up in Castlegar. “It’s just as much about making a commitment to something and following through, even if it gets hard. It’s improved everything for me, mostly my ability to cope with things.”
A total of 16 students participated in the program which included embarking on several field trips throughout the region, including this stop at Kalesnikoff Lumber.
As the program progressed, students earned certificates in confined space, level-one first aid, industrial rigging, forklift operation, fire extinguisher training and fall protection. The cohort then spent time at the Selkirk College Silver King Campus where they were introduced to trades programs by spending one week in each shop including: Millwright/Machinist, Welding/Metal Fabrication, Carpentry, Heavy Duty Mechanics, Plant Operator and Electrical. The scene then shifted to a 15-day introduction to robotics and advanced manufacturing at the MIDAS Lab in Trail. Lastly, the group headed outdoors where heavy equipment operator and logging operations were explored.
Over the course of the program, the class also visited many job sites throughout the region including the Trail Regional Hospital, XL Welding, Spearhead Timber Framing, Kalesnikoff Lumber, Kootenay Innovative Wood, Zellstoff Celgar, Retriev, Nelson Hydro and Teck Trail Operations.
Program Makes a Difference
Salmo resident Julie Price entered the program hoping to change careers. The 44-year-old spent most of her working life in remote northern camps doing seasonal work as a cook and server, but grew tired of spending time away from the West Kootenay. Price was one of five students chosen to enter a trades’ foundation program of her choice and jumped at the opportunity to advance her training further.
“I feel blessed to have been picked to now move into the Carpentry Foundation Program,” says the mother of four and grandmother of seven. “Having quit my job, I would have needed to work and fund my way through school which would have been difficult. This way, I can focus on the school part and work towards my Red Seal much quicker.”
After spending most of her life in northern camps as a cook and server, Salmo resident Julie Price (left)—seen here with Instructor Mark Zeabin—has embarked on a new career path thanks the Pathways to Employment Program in Trades & Industry Program and has now transitioned into the Carpentry Foundation Program at the Selkirk College Silver King Campus. Check out the video on the program here.
Sadie Stewart has also taken the opportunity to move from the restaurant industry to trades training. The Rossland resident has three young children aged seven to ten and wants to build a brighter future for her family.
“I don’t have a lot of other skills, so I’m trying to find something else other than serving because I want to be home with my kids at night,” says Stewart, who is now in the Metal Fabrication Foundation Program. “My kids know how important this is to all of us for me to go to school. That also gives me motivation to keep going because I think it’s a good example for them to see me trying to better my life.”
Howes and Johnson were also chosen for entry into a foundation program, joining Stewart in the metal fabrication shop. For Howes, the Pathways to Employment program has given him a new zest to pursue his educational dreams.
“I enjoyed coming back to school way more than I enjoyed being in school before,” he says. “Being in high school, the way we were being taught was not registering. Now that everything is being related to things that I want to do, it falls together and seems so much easier. It’s intriguing now and you actually care. I look forward to coming to school every Monday and don’t like the weekends anymore because I just want to be at school.”