One by one, students approach a podium.
Youth participating in trades programs across School District 62 are gathered at Belmont secondary to be celebrated for their achievements in programming that district careers co-ordinator Roger Hargreaves said don’t get the credit they deserve.
“We recognize academics all the time, (but it’s) nice to see some other skill sets and knowledge being acknowledged as being important and worthy of this,” he said.
On this night, 10 students went home with $1,000 for successfully completing the more than 900 hours required for the Secondary School Apprenticeships (SSA) program. Two students went home with $500 as students recognized by their employers and the Vancouver Island Construction Association (VICA) for excellence, and 13 more received recognition from regional and provincial trades competitions.
“Students enter into a real apprenticeship, not just a course program,” Hargreaves said of the SSA. “They get course credits for being in that, the Ministry of Education recognized that’s valuable learning on the job.”
There are between 60 and 70 students participating in various trades programs in SD62 from Belmont, Royal Bay, Edward Milne and the Westshore Centre for Learning and Training. Apprenticeships can start for students in Grade 10 and as early as age 15. The average age of apprenticeship completion in B.C. is 28, but Hargreaves said students starting in high school can get it much sooner.
“A lot of these kids in the room, if they keep working, will have a very early apprenticeship when they are 21 or 22, which is a huge leg up on their buddies wondering what they are going to do with their lives,” he said. “They already have something in their back pocket.”
Dean Gustin is one of those students working towards an apprenticeship, having completed a year already. The Belmont graduate went home with $1,000 for completing his SSA, and $500 from VICA. At 19, he already has a union job working with sheet metal and is working towards his Red Seal. For those interested, he recommended getting into the trades in high school as he did.
“You don’t have the burden of student loans … I would absolutely jump on that; it’s a no brainer,” he said. “It’s really healthy here. There is a labour shortage this year, which is fantastic, because there is a lot of picking and choosing for jobs. It’s really good.”