Drive by NorKam secondary school and the physical effort of building a trades and technology school are evident.
Mounds of dirt sit beside footings in the ground and heavy construction equipment. Crew are hard at work to complete the $7.4-million NorKam Trades Centre of Excellence in time for the start of classes in September.
An equally ambitious, although far less visible, endeavour is going on behind the walls of the Kamloops-Thompson School District board office; one that involves building courses for students to study.
The programs are being built, so to speak, in partnership with industry representatives and educators to provide a comprehensive and practical trades education, said Sheryl Lindquist, district principal of secondary transitions.
Pending board approval in February, students in grades 10 to 12 have access to six programs that provide one semester — 120 course hours — in commercial transport driver training, pre-mining technology, civil engineering, resume certification and work readiness, refrigeration mechanic and two samplers — mechanical and construction.
“Kids will be able to parachute in for one semester and then go back to their home school so they’re not leaving their friends,” said Lindquist.
“They are coming for an experience, like a sampler experience.”
Each of the six programs is comprised of four courses, said Lindquist. Classes function more as a work environment than a classroom setting.
“Students will probably take a coffee break rather than long break,” she said. “The instructors can turn off the bells because the students will be with them all day. It won’t be a chunk of time, 72 minutes per block. The instructors can focus on the whole workday.”
The goal is for youths to develop a trades-focused work ethic before stepping onto their first job site, said Lindquist.
As for the programs, the trades samplers are based on apprenticeship training in construction and mechanics. Lindquist said a graduate should be able to step onto a job site and get to work.
“They are going to get an excellent experience of what it’s going to be like in that trade,” she said.
Designed to give NorKam students a leg up on job hunting, the resume certification and work readiness program includes construction site safety training, on the job tool training, first aid and other certifications that improve employability.
Lindquist said students will also be taught when and how to stand up for themselves when it comes to personal safety on the job.
“They may not know what is safe and what isn’t or when is the right time to argue with your employer,” she said.
A high-achieving student with a background in physics or math 12 might be interested in the pre-mining technology program, a university introductory course that provides a foundation for programs offered at the B.C. Institute of Technology.
Students gain a base knowledge in topics like environmental applications, physical geography and an introduction to the minerals industry, said Lindquist.
Civil engineering gives grade 11 and 12 students a sample of what goes into design and construction while refrigeration mechanics graduates will earn Level 1 apprenticeship status.
Students enrolled in commercial transport driver training have access to the school’s own big-rig simulator in a program developed in co-operation with the B.C. Trucking Association.
The image of the truck driver has changed over the years, and more people understand it’s a viable and profitable career choice, said Lindquist.
“The money they (graduates) can make can fund any university program later,” she said.
“The message here is all of these programs aren’t alternate programs or second-rate programs. We need talented, bright, hard working students with a great work ethic.”
Danika Gagnon is a Grade 12 Sa-Hali secondary student enrolled in a dual-credit program at Thompson Rivers University.
She’s not an academic, but is good with her hands and comes from a long line of tradespeople. So it came as no surprise to her that she has a knack for heavy-duty mechanics.
As soon as she started her course at TRU in August, she knew she’d be working on big engines the rest of her life, she said. The TRU program cost her $5,000.
Gagnon believes NorKam Trades and Technology will benefit students who aren’t academics, but are unsure of what trade to pursue.
She said it would have been terrible to spend that money on heavy-duty mechanics and discover she didn’t enjoy the course.
“If they get to have a taste of it in high school, then they know if it’s for them. You don’t know what challenges you’ll be faced with until you’re already here,” said Gagnon.
NorKam trades and technology sits on the northeast corner of the school. When complete it will house four shops and two classrooms.
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PUBLIC MEETINGS PLANNED
The public has two opportunities in the new year to learn more about the courses offered at NorKam Trades Centre of Excellence.
The first meeting takes place in the NorKam cafeteria at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Lindquist said all of her curriculum writers will attend and answer whatever questions people have.
On Wednesday, Feb. 12, the same information will be presented at another meeting at 7 p.m. Lindquist said a location has yet to be determined.
More information, including details on the programs, can be found online at tnt.sd73.bc.ca.