Local students gain hands on trades experience

After visiting different work experience locations in Hinton, local high school students learned about how they can sign up and be part of the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), and work for a local employer.
Masha Scheele Photo

Masha Scheele

Local high school students received some hands on experience in different trades in the community and learned how to access apprenticeship options for those trades while still in high school.

This was all part of the Forestry Trades Camp held from Nov. 26 to 28 at the Hinton Training Centre hosted by Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC) and the Forestry Futures Alliance through CAREERS: The Next Generation. 

Students from Father Gerard Redmond, Harry Collinge High School (HCHS), as well as one student from Mountain Cree stayed in the Hinton Training Centre residence throughout the camp.

“They’re very interested at this stage, most of them being in Grade 10 would not have been exposed to the world of trades so they get to talk first hand with employers that are willing to share their knowledge with them,” said Marcel St Arnaud, field director of Careers: The Next Generation.

Students toured through four different worksites where they received hands on experience and talked with business owners and certified journeypersons. 

Province-wide there are about 1,500 kids in the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), while Hinton has around 20, said St. Arnaud, a number he hopes will grow over time.

RAP allows high school students to start their apprenticeship training while earning credits towards high school graduation.

Group of students at the 2020 forestry trades camp in Hinton. Photo submitted

“Generally speaking about 20 per cent of the students in any school in Alberta would go to post secondary, either university or technology school. That leaves about 80 per cent of the students that don’t go, so what about them?” said St Arnaud.

St Arnaud said training for trades is provided by the government for free, and apprentices learn hands on while earning a great wage and only attending school for two months.

“You can have an early finish, if they start in high school they could be certified and in the trade by the time they’re 21 or 22 and earn anywhere between $75,000 to $100,000 a year,” he added.

Serge Cote, Apprenticeship and Industry Training (AIT) officer of Alberta Advanced Education, stated that the provincial government recently announced more funding towards the RAP program.

The government is focused on promoting apprenticeship to young people because of expected future shortages in the trades as people are retiring in the years ahead.

“We’re trying to fill that gap of knowledge going out with young people coming to replace those retiring workers,” he said.

The goal of the trades camp wasn’t necessarily to get students enrolled in the RAP program, but to raise awareness of the possibilities in the community, stated Lacie Reilly, program coordinator and student advisor at GPRC.

Students during one of the worksite visits in Hinton. Photo submitted

“It’s important for these kids to understand what a huge role forestry plays in the Hinton area and therefore where the different careers they’ll be able to find are,” she said.

Grade 12 student from HCHS, Bryson Carson, attended the camp for the second year and said that he sees real possibilities in the trades presented to him but is first set to join the army.

“Overall it’s a great experience, I’d suggest it to anyone who’s interested in trades because if you don’t know a lot about them this is the place to go. You get to see it from numerous different companies,” he said.

Only one student from the Mountain Cree Camp School Kisiko Awasis Kiskinahamawin, southwest of Hinton, was able to come but, Heather Bishop, their department head hopes to bring more students to future trades camps. 

“The bonus with this student is that the student is a female, and you don’t have a lot of females that are actively looking at getting into the trades,” said Bishop.

Bishop added that her student seemed to really enjoy the hands on experience throughout the three days.

“She did welding the first day at Buttazoni’s, she went to Summit and made a hammer with machinery yesterday, she did the mill and sawmill tours today. She’s had a great experience,” she said.

The camp also involved Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training, Alberta Forest Products Association along with local businesses Alstar Oilfield Contractors, Buttazzoni Contracting, Logic Control, Summit Machining and Welding Ltd., West Fraser, and Winfield Industrial.