Preparing the next generation of tradespeople

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As we know, skilled tradespeople are in demand. Over the next 10 years, most skilled trades expect between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs openings. Surpassing even those impressive numbers are Carpenter (8,440 jobs) and Automotive Service Technician (5,120 jobs).

Most Canadian colleges offer trades training and College of the Rockies is no exception. The College provides foundation and apprenticeship level training in carpentry, automotive service technician, heavy duty mechanics, industrial mechanics (millwright), electrician, and welding.

With the goal of laying the foundation (literally!) for aspiring tradespeople, the College is committed to making the trades more accessible and diverse. As a result, in addition to the programs above, the College regularly offers Youth Train in Trades, Trades Sampler, Youth Trades Sampler, Women in Trades Sampler, and Mining Apprenticeship programs.

The Youth Train in Trades program provides an avenue for high school students (currently grades 11 and 12) to get an early jump on their apprenticeships by completing foundation-level training in Automotive Service Technician, Carpenter, Professional Cook, Electrician, Hairstylist, Heavy Mechanical, Industrial Mechanic (Millwright), Plumber, or Welder programs while simultaneously earning high school credits.

Darius Brons-Cooney knew he wanted a career in heavy-duty machinery from as far back as he can remember. “High school just wasn’t my thing,” he says. So, he jumped into the College’s Heavy Duty Equipment Technician foundation program during his grade 12 year. Fast forward, and Darius is now working in his dream career full-time!

The Youth Explore Trades Sampler program is another great opportunity for high schoolers curious about trades. Over 12 jam-packed weeks of hands-on training, students learn about, and try their hand at, a variety of trades. Michelle Taylor, Invermere campus manager, has been thrilled to see this program continue to be in high demand after holding the program more than 20 times and seeing more than 200 Invermere students graduate from the program. Demand is not slowing down. Though the program has a capacity of 12 students, there are currently 29 currently on a waitlist.

Over the life of the program, which receives tremendous support from the Invermere business community, students have received trades training in carpentry and framing, plumbing, electrical, autobody, auto mechanic, welding, painting, drywall. In recognition of the community support, the program builds a legacy project to benefit community non-profit organizations.

Lead instructor Jesse Okros clearly believes in the value of the program. He was a participant when he was in high school, before attending the College and earning his Red Seal in carpentry. Now he can share his passion for the program to a new generation of students.

We can’t forget Mark Desjarlais – a born carpenter who also found his calling through one of the College’s Trades Sampler programs at the Cranbrook main campus.

“I’ve always had an interest in carpentry,” he said. “I used to help my uncle with his construction business, and I found the work very interesting. After trying out the trades at the College, I now know for sure that I want to pursue carpentry as a career.”

As Jenny Bateman can attest, the College believes in breaking stereotypes through programming. Jenny enrolled in an intake of the Women in Trades Sampler program, which led her to pursue a career as an electrician. “I’ve always been intrigued by the trades,” she says. “The Women in Trades Training program helped me to find the one that is best suited to me.”

Alysha Buchy, knowing she could never do a desk job, also felt drawn to the electrician program. While completing her foundation-level program at the College, she learned of an innovative opportunity – the Mining Apprenticeship Program (MAP).

MAP is a unique program that allows students to complete work-based training hours at local mine sites operated by Teck Coal’s Elk Valley Operations with the College acting as the employer-sponsor. Her participation in MAP led her to becoming a Red Seal certified electrician and finding full-time employment at one of the Teck Coal Mines she trained at.

“I think any female who is considering a career in a non-traditional field like the trades should just go for it. It’s been a very positive experience and a time of growth,” Alysha said.

So, if diving into the world of trades and letting your skills shine bright, now is the time to kickstart your journey.

Learn more at: cotr.ca/trades