The Cowichan Valley is a leader among B.C. school districts in promoting trades training, and on Tuesday, Feb. 5, the district’s school board saw just how successful as $33,000 in cheques were handed out to successful apprentices.
Each of the students receiving a cheque had to enrol in a special program, train while still attending high school classes, graduate, and then put in 900 hours worth of apprenticeship time to quality to receive a $1,000 Industry Training Authority (ITA) grant.
In the past a handful of students each year have qualified for the grants, but this week the board room at the SD79 offices in Duncan was packed to overflowing as more than half of the 33 students managed to make it to the ceremony. Several, working in Duncan, had hurried over in their coffee break, and were sent back to work with rounds of applause.
These students were recognized for their hard work in completing apprenticeship hours while maintaining their school work.
The apprenticeship is done outside of school hours and it gives students the opportunity to earn money while they go to school, as well as learning skills valued by employers.
Students also earn 16 credits towards graduation and, most importantly, get a head start on their career.
“These grants speak volumes about the hard work our students have undertaken to get to this point. This cohort of grant recipients is the largest in the history of the Cowichan Valley School District,” said Larry Mattin, program director.
In recent years, the program has grown and grown, he said, pointing out that now 7.1 per cent of all youth apprentices in B.C. are in the Cowichan Valley. Only two summer programs were held in the district in 2017, increasing to four, with a total of 72 students, in 2018, and there are six summer trades training programs scheduled for the district this year.
A “trades trolley” that travels around to elementary schools to inspire children to look at trades training in future, has been a huge success as well. In 2017/18 there were 1,300 trades trolley builds in 48 classrooms and this year, there have been a total of 1,100 in 46 classrooms with 13 more builds to go.
Mattin was clearly proud of what had been achieved in the district, as he congratulated the students, who were working as electricians, cooks, mechanics, hairdressers, butchers, carpenters, and more.
The average number of sign-ups in apprenticeship programs in the province’s large districts is 41 students per year, and in medium-sized districts, it’s 32.
“We had 96,” a smiling Mattin told the crowd.