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High school trades program gives students head start

Students as young as 15 years old can earn post-secondary credits

Surrounded by tables of information on hundreds of careers, high school student Karen Haer is considering post secondary training in the trades.

"I think it's really helpful to see what each career is about because there are so many different options in the trades," Haer said.

Howe Sound Secondary School students were given a taste of the trades at the Skilled Life, Trades Information night, Wednesday (Feb. 25). The open house was designed to provide students from Grade 7 to 12 information about the trades.

"Students can start on the trade of their choice in high school through apprenticeships and work experience," said Linda McHale, Sea to Sky District career programs assistant. "Getting into the trades is a viable option because students can earn higher wages right out of high school."

Students as young as 15 years old can start working on an apprenticeships while still in high school - graduating with first year apprenticeship hours and high school credits.

High school students working part time in a certified apprenticeship-training field also become eligible to receive a $1,000 bursary upon high school graduation.

According to McHale, it all boils down to a pretty sweet deal.

Howe Sound Secondary is one of 27 B.C. school to receive grants through the Accelerated Credit Enrolment in Industry Training (ACE IT) program. The grants are administered by Skills Canada BC to schools that have demonstrated that they can raise the profile of trades training by adding or expanding existing ACE IT programs and by purchasing or upgrading equipment.

"We have to convince the parents as well but learning a skilled trade while completing secondary school can be a wise career choice," McHale said.

Grade 12 students can take college level courses through the Vancouver Community College (VCC) Culinary Arts Program and the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Carpentry Program. Upon graduation, students earn an entry-level trades training certificate as well as hours toward a level one apprenticeship. The cost of the programs area free with the exception of materials.

"We started the culinary arts program because it provides a bridge for students who want to attend the Vancouver Community College," said Bob Feist, VCC culinary arts director. "This program is more of a European model that gets students started early in a career."

Despite challenging economic times the demand for trades people is increasing. Hans Opelka, Howe Sound Secondary culinary arts instructor, said the high school initiative keeps post-secondary programs healthy.

"When I came a couple of years ago to teach at the college level, there were not enough students. So we decided to come into the high school and spark interest early," Opelka said.

If carpentry or culinary arts don't appeal, Vicki Schenk, Howe Sound Secondary School teacher, said students have plenty of options. Over 342 local businesses offer work experience for high school students.

"I think it is important that kids make connections with trades and businesses in our community," Schenk said. "

High school students with part time jobs in a trades-related field can apply for their apprenticeships through their secondary school said Schenk. They must be at least 15 years old and be working in an Industry Training Authority (ITA) recognized field, and under the guidance of a trades-qualified person.

For more information on any of the Secondary School Apprenticeship programs, contact McHale at Howe sound secondary School, 604-892-9792.

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