Ten years of lobbying and wanting and waiting ended with piles of dirt and political congratulations Friday as ground was officially broken on the NorKam Trades Centre of Excellence.
The politicians and school officials put on matching hardhats and picked up gold-coloured shovels to break ground after acknowledging each other's efforts in the decade-long effort to make the centre a reality.
Because the project has been in the works for so long, some of the people involved in making the 100-space centre a reality had come and gone.
"I'm the latecomer," said Education Minister Peter Fassbender.
"Some people said is this ever going to happen?"
The new centre will give young people a place to chart their future, he said, adding the Liberals are projecting a million new jobs that will need workers to fill them.
School District 73 board chairwoman Denise Harper said the $7.4-million centre (with $4.6 million from Fassbender's ministry, $1.1 million from the school district and $1.7 million from the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training) will be completed by June 2014.
She noted the requests for the centre started when Ken Christian was in her position.
"We kept the data in front of them, we kept the need in front of them," she said, referring to the government.
NorKam principal Jonathan Brady also acknowledged his predecessor, Sheryl Lindquist, for her work on making the centre happen.
Now Lindquist is in charge of the programs that will go into the building.
"This is the most happening school in the district," said a smiling Lindquist, who is also a NorKam graduate.
The trades programs to be offered include mining exploration, transport truck driver training, entry-level industrial skills, construction trades training, refrigeration and air conditioning and civil engineering technology.
That combined with the International Baccalaureate program make NorKam a school that's in demand.
Lindquist said she had calls last year from families wanting to know more about the trades programs that would be coming, including one query from Saskatchewan.
"Education is finally getting to the root of career building," she said.
Her words were appropriate for the students chosen to join the officials in the groundbreaking.
South Kam Grade 12 student Joey Kinashanko took the Heavy Metal Rocks program last year and got a job with Extreme Excavating out of it. He didn't want to return to high school until he was told he could get credit and work at the same time.
"I'm working full-time and getting credit for going to school. I love my job," he said. Minutes later, he was in the cab of an excavator turning the dirt for the new NorKam building.
Caitlyn Chantler said she hated school, didn't feel like she fit in. Then she got into the NorKam hairdressing program.
"In the salon, I feel like I belong," she said.
"Doing my hair is like therapy. It makes me feel better. I want to do that for others."
Isaac Moonen is in his third year of the NorKam cafeteria program and he has found it helps his leadership skills as well as building his confidence.
Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake said their stories point to the need for diverse school programs.
"That shows you how it's important to have personalized learning," he said.
Among those watching was a group of Grade 12 NorKam students who were enthusiastic, even though the new trades centre won't open until after they're gone.
"With the IB (International Baccalaureate) now, this will create a lot more learning opportunities," said Madison Hunter.
"It means new students from different schools and even cities. We're going to get a lot more money in the school."
Alex Campbell said the upgrades will mean more focus on NorKam while Briana Vaillancourt said it opens choices for students.
"People will be more motivated," said Katie Leslie.
"We have a school where kids can pursue their passions now," said Hunter.