J.P. Squire | Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015 9:40 pm | Updated: 9:47 pm, Fri Mar 6, 2015.
More than 550 students from Grades 5-12 had a chance to try their hand at a skilled trade Friday in Kelowna, skills that will be desperately needed in the coming decades.
Their opportunity came at the 19th annual BC Trades and Technology regional competition organized by Skills Canada. Students from public and private schools came from throughout the Southern Interior, from Revelstoke to the Okanagan-Similkameen, said Dianne Holm, event co-ordinator with the college's trades and apprenticeship department.
It started out as just as a variety of competitions and we had spectators coming in to actually see the different competitions. Then we started thinking we have all these kids coming in; we should be giving them some hands-on activities to do."
For the past five to six years, students have circulated among try-a-trade stations in sheet metal, plumbing, electrical, welding, heavy-duty mechanics, automotive and aircraft maintenance, plus watch robotics demonstrations.
In some cases, students used simulators rather than the actual tools of the trade for safety reasons.
"In collision repair, we have a paint simulator, but today we're letting them use airbrushes so they're going to get a taste of what it's like to paint cars and learn some techniques at the same time," said Holm.
"I used to work with the Ministry of Apprenticeship a very long time ago," she said. "So when I got into this department, I knew that a lot of youth didn’t quite have the advantages that I did when I was younger. I had a father who was a carpenter and also did automotive. The Trades & Apprenticeship department is very supportive of getting out to visit the younger grades to help get them interested in the trades."
The focus is not just on the Central Okanagan, but on outlying communities as well, she said, with campus tours showing what Okanagan College has to offer.
Skills Canada BC provided a facilitator for a presentation to students and then a hands-on toolbox challenge at the heavy-duty shop. Students had a chance to assemble something, with the fastest student declared the winner.
"It gives them a taste of what trades and technology is all about," said Holm. "We really try to include all of the grades. We even reached out to Grade 5’s this year and some of them will be taking part in the presentations”..
"We're looking at this as a great youth day, a great opportunity for them to come in. We even have home-school parents that are bringing their kids in."
Not every college steps up to hold Skills Canada competitions, she added, noting Okanagan College was one of the first. Some are organized by school districts, but the college has all of the shops and instructors with the ability to attract future students.