Carson Launder looks comfortable in his hardhat.
Leading a pack of Belmont students through the construction site where the new Royal Bay secondary heads toward a Sept. 2015 opening, the 18-year-old electrical apprentice strides confidently shoulder-to-shoulder with Minister of Education Peter Fassbender.
“I think it’s pretty cool. I’ll be able to say this (school) will stand for 50 more years and maybe even my kids will end up going here,” Launder said of Royal Bay. “When I first came in I didn’t know (anything) of electrical. I didn’t even know what wires were. I knew nothing and now they are trusting me with bigger jobs and I’ve learned quite a bit.”
The minister stopped by to visit the school and meet youth like Launder firsthand. He and others interested in learning the trades hands-on have benefitted from programming including the Accelerated Credit Enrolment Industry Training (ACE IT) and the Secondary School Apprenticeship (SSA) programs.
The 2014 Belmont graduate took a residential construction class in his last year of high school alongside 17 others and said almost the entire class got jobs right away. Not only that, the electrical apprentice has already been told he will have a job even when both Royal Bay and Belmont secondaries are complete. As such, he can’t say enough about the construction programs.
“I think lots of kids are saying ‘wow, this is a great opportunity for me. I can learn while making money and I can go there and work.’ I think it’s cool – it’s hands on,” the Langford resident said. “It’s better than sitting in class for someone like me.”
Launder isn’t the only one and Belmont secondary vice-principal Mike Huck said the programs have been an excellent fit for many students he has seen come through Belmont. He expects that to continue when he takes over as vice-principal at Royal Bay.
“We get some kids that are going through the motions and once in a while you kinda see a kid that is more geared towards these trades. It’s a simple sell once you do show them what they can do and what they can accomplish,” Huck said. “A lot of kids don’t know the way they want to go, but once you get them on a site and explain the options, they are all for it. They do an amazing job.”
Not only are many young apprentices getting a major leg up starting their journeys at 18 instead of 24 or 25, he said, students are also benefitting from working in the field and discovering what it is like to be on a job site. Huck said he’s seen significant growth in the students who have participated firsthand.
“When we first brought that group of kids over here, you could tell they were high school students and kind of deer in the headlights sort of thing. But within a week or two they were full-blown workers and you couldn’t even tell they were secondary apprentices anymore.”
Sooke School District superintendent Jim Cambridge fully supports the programs and said the students choosing the trades can be just as bright and highly skilled as any others. He added that it’s great to see the government backing an area of study that has not been supported as much in the past.
“Past thinking was if you don’t go to college you aren’t going to get a career and we know that’s not true,” Cambridge said. “We know there are lots of kids that are really interested in hands-on learning and want to take it.”
Grade 11 Belmont student Aleah Simensen is one of those students. Although she is the only female in her class pursuing auto body painting, she appreciates the opportunity to help pinpoint her passion.
“I love working with my hands, I love cars (and) I wouldn’t be able to sit in an office all day, I don’t really have that attention span to be honest,” she said.
“(There are) times you know, school doesn’t really work out for (students) and then they find this and it really gives them a start at life. I found something that I love and will be able to do for the rest of my life and live comfortably. I will be able to pay my bills, have fun and wake up every morning and love what I do.”