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SD62 program gets students in the door for trades

Riley Allen is starting his electrician’s Red Seal at Camosun after completing the program
Riley Allen (far right) was one of 26 students presented with a $1,000 grant for completing at least 900 hours in their chosen trade as part of the Youth Work program. (Sooke School District/Twitter)

Riley Allen had been pondering the trades but was undecided about which path he wanted to take.

But a little more than a week after chatting with Brian Hotovy, the Sooke School District’s Youth Work in Trades coordinator, he had an interview and a position lined up with Langford-based electricians Compass Electric.

Allen was one of the students recognized at the Sooke School District’s Youth Work Awards on April 28. In all, 26 SD62 high school students went through the program this year, taking on an apprenticeship in a chosen trade for class credit. Each student was also given a $1,000 cheque from the Ministry of Education and Child Care in partnership with Skilled Trades BC for completing at least 900 work hours during the program.

“I’m enjoying it more than I’ve enjoyed anything really, like we have been able to do commercial and residential. I’m working here at a Tesla dealership right now,” said Allen. “I’m learning just a crazy amount of stuff, which is super cool.”

Having worked more than 2,000 hours through the program, Allen starts earning his electrician’s Red Seal certification at Camosun on May 23.

“It definitely shows when, when someone cares about what they’re doing and has a bit of a passion or drive. So it makes a huge difference with some of those students that come through that really want to learn the trade and they’re ‘gung-ho’ right out of the gate,” said Billy Cook, a foreman with Compass Electric.

Cook said having a program for high school-aged kids helps navigate that tricky period where apprentices are often working initially on lower wages and struggling to pay rent, which can turn a lot of people away, especially in the challenging housing market in Greater Victoria.

A Royal Bank of Canada report released in September 2021 forecasted that 700,000 tradespeople out of the four million working in Canada would retire by 2028. That combined with difficulties with recruitment means Canada will face a shortage of at least 10,000 workers in every nationally recognized Red Seal trade by 2026.

Having a helping hand, especially in high school, and someone to show them the ropes can make a big difference in getting a foot in the door, Allen said, adding Hotovy was a huge help in opening doors.

Allen urged anyone interested to take the chance to get into an apprenticeship early.

READ MORE: Child care, benefits, stigma: barriers for tradespeople fuelling Greater Victoria labour shortages

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