Students and a teacher from Prince Charles Secondary School gathered around as machinist Blake McKenzie showed off the spool bars made on site at Trail Operations.

Students and a teacher from Prince Charles Secondary School gathered around as machinist Blake McKenzie showed off the spool bars made on site at Trail Operations.

Teck opens its doors to area students

Grades 8 and 9 students threw on hard hats and safety glasses Wednesday, putting in a day of school at Teck.

For the first time, Trail Operations hosted Teck Trades in Action Day, where 80 students from Kootenay Columbia and Kootenay Lake school districts watched real employees hard at work.

Gaining insight into career options, students selected four out of nine stations – industrial electrician, pipefitter/steamfitter, machinist, millwright, carpenter, welder, steel fabrication, refrigeration and bricklayer – where they interacted with journeymen and apprentices.

Crowe Grade 8 student Darren Bella scooped up mortar and spread it on a slab before setting a brick down all while ensuring his work was level.

“I’m learning a lot today and it’s made me more interested in trades,” he said.

The tradesmen and apprentices also took pride in showing their skill to curious students, especially those who are fresh out of school.

Apprentice Darin Signal looked over Jacob McBride’s shoulder, as the Grade 9 L.V. Rogers Secondary student welded PVC (plastic pipe).

Michelle Milligan kept an eye out for the 10 teenage girls who took part in the tour, ensuring they felt comfortable on site.

The mother of three left the service industry to take the former women in trades program in Nelson, where she found a love for steel fabrication. She now works at Teck as a first-year apprentice.

“I’m letting them know that other girls work in this environment and we’re just as a strong if not stronger,” she said.

The non-traditional role for women in the workforce attracted Nicole McIsaac, a Grade 9 student from Crowe, who was impressed with what she saw.

“It’s pretty cool, I’ve learnt a lot already,” she said after taking part in a hammering contest at the carpentry station. “I thought I’d be bored but it was actually really interesting.”

With a year under his belt at Teck, carpenter Chris Rhodes was remembering building with Lego as a kid, taking a tour on Selkirk Day and lastly following his career path up the hill.

“It’s a reminder of what it was like to be in that spot,” he said. “It wasn’t that long ago.”

For co-worker Randy Mellett, who’s spent the past 35 years on the job, it was nice to see young minds taking an interest in his trade.

“There’s a lot of job satisfaction to be able to see something through right from the start to finish,” he said.

The Teck trades day was a YES2IT event, a partnership organized by Teck Trail Operations, School District 20 and 8, the Resource Training Organization, Selkirk College, the Skills Centre, the Industry Training Authority and the Ministry of Education.

YES2IT – Youth Exploring Skills to Industry Training – is an awareness program for students in grades 6-9 and their parents. It allows students to experience a variety of trade occupations and make connections with industry and trades people in their communities. They’re also encouraged to learn more about trades apprenticeship programs, which can start as early as grade 11 and 12.

“Most people get started after high school, (Accelerated Credit Enrolment in Industry Training) allows them to start before they leave high school – earning credits toward their diploma, without paying tuition and earning credits in the form of hours toward a trade,” said Jan Morton, director of community education for SD20.

While promotion of trades is as strong as ever, Morton said low enrolment does have an impact on what trades are offered at the high school level.

“As you get a decline in numbers at a secondary school, it gets harder to get the 16, 17, or 18 kids you need to run a stand-alone program,” she said.

School districts are working together to deliver programs, offering a millwright program out of Nelson for students in both school districts.

Morton said she is pinching herself after taking the tour with local kids because it was such an amazing opportunity for the students.

“It was absolutely fabulous when you look at the concentration these kids have – whether they’re welding or in a nail hammering competition – that’s what makes it all worth while.”