Creating a pathway that provides high school students the opportunity to grow into post-secondary trades training prior to Grade 12 graduation is the focus of a partnership between Selkirk College and School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake).
The Youth Explore Trades Sampler (YETS) Program is currently underway at Nelson’s Silver King Campus where 15 students from Salmo Secondary School are immersed in activity at the trades-based Selkirk College facility. The students started their hands-on sampling of the trades in February and will wrap up with 12 high school credits by June.
“Trades is a very broad field, so I am very excited to learn the different areas to see where it will take me in my future,” says Grade 11 student Eletta Marsh. “It’s very interesting, I like the vibe and flow. It helps to learn about the college environment before you make a decision to actually attend.”
A province-wide initiative hatched by the Industry Trades Authority (ITA), the YETS Program targets students in Grades 10 and 11. High school students interested in trades get the chance to spend 300 hours on campus in five different shops and finish the semester with a monthlong on-site practicum in a field of their choice. Participants get full graduation credits for the semester that would be equivalent to taking four classes at their high school.
Opportunity Found for Grade 11 Learners
The Salmo Secondary students currently enrolled in the program make up half of the rural school’s Grade 11 cohort. Before they complete the program, students will have spent time with Selkirk College instructors in the carpentry, welding, heavy duty mechanics, millwright/machinist and electrical shops.
Even prior to entering the YETS Program, student Shade Oswald had started working on apprenticeship hours for the small engine mechanics trade with Barrett Motorsports & Equipment in Fruitvale. A motocross racer, Oswald jumped at the chance to broaden his knowledge of what opportunities await him in the future.
“It’s cool to be at a college and see the whole scene,” Oswald says. “Getting to understand the other trades a little bit better, that sampling is important. Even if it’s not something I decide to pursue as a career, I get a little bit of knowledge and I can use it in my everyday life.”
Students who take the YETS Program in Grade 10 or 11 have a chance to then take a full foundation program in the trade of their choice through the Youth Train in Trades Program in their Grade 12 year. Both the YETS Program and Youth Train in Trades Program are paid for by the provincial government with additional support from the Kootenay Lake School District and participating schools as needed. No post-secondary tuition is charged to the student.
When the Salmo Secondary class began the YETS Program, two students had already made the decision to carry on with the Youth Train in Trades Program in the next academic year. After only a month at the Silver King Campus, six more had committed to trades training in their Grade 12 year.
“They come back to school and they are excited to tell us about their day,” says Jon Francis, the principal at Salmo Secondary. “You can already see changes in the maturity of the students, this is a real-life transition for them and they are in that mindset. Even in a few short weeks, they have more focus on the direction they want to go in over the next couple of years. It’s a clear line to post-secondary and then to the workforce.”
In a growing partnership between Selkirk College and Kootenay Lake School District, providing program pathways through regional post-secondary is enabling learners to grow both knowledge and experience. Available to all secondary students across the school district, the Youth Train in Trades option is one that requires pre-planning starting in Grade 10. Interested students must have a three-year graduation plan to ladder into the trades program of choice. It takes commitment, but students from Salmo Secondary have been keen to make it happen.
“We are seeing students and families make really well-informed decisions as a result of their experience” says Tamara Malloff, district principal of Innovative Learning Services for the Kootenay Lake School District. “It’s an exciting time for them as they are able to transition into becoming college students.”
The skills learned in all the shops, combined with the certifications and familiarity with a variety of trades, sets students up for more lucrative summer job opportunities to go along with the ultimate pursuit of the trade of their choice. For students interested in carrying forward with a career in the trades, both YETS and Youth Train in Trades can provide the perfect head start on completing a Red Seal certification.
“Having these students in our classrooms, shop spaces and hallways brings a whole new energy to the campus,” says Rob Schwarzer, chair of Selkirk College’s School of Industry & Trades Training. “Providing a hands-on, tangible look at different trades while still early in high school strengthens the future of these programs and eventually the labour force. These students will have a very good idea of whether that specific trade fits with what their goals are and something they want to pursue as a career.”
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Salmo Secondary School Grade 11 students are currently taking part in the Youth Explore Trades Sampler Program at the Selkirk College Silver King Campus in Nelson.
Salmo Secondary School student Eletta Marsh is one of 15 Grade 11 students currently taking part in the Youth Explore Trades Sampler Program on Nelson's Silver King Campus.
Salmo Secondary School student Shade Oswald is one of 15 Grade 11 students currently taking part in the Youth Explore Trades Sampler Program on Nelson's Silver King Campus.