Education and experience are key to creating the workforce Basin businesses need

“I’m absolutely loving being a carpenter,” says Angela Maio, who attended the 24-week carpentry foundation program at the Silver King (Nelson) campus of Selkirk College and is now a first-year apprentice working for Purcell Timber Frame Homes in Nelson.

“Purcell is located right in the heart of Nelson, so it has been easy to get to work and back,” she says. “Doing my apprenticeship locally is amazing and very convenient for me.”

It’s this “local” aspect that deserves attention. Not only can students in many trades get educated right here in the Basin, but they can do their apprenticeships here too. It’s an important way of growing the region’s workforce.

Learning the skills

To start, apprentices like Maio need a solid foundation. That’s why the Trust has supported educational facilities where future tradespeople learn classroom theory and obtain hands-on training.

In 2017, the Trust provided $1 million to College of the Rockies (COTR) to help it build a new, larger trades training facility that has improved program delivery and enabled the college to accept more trades students.

“The addition of Patterson Hall has allowed us to further expand our ability to provide the trades training that our students need to reach their goals and secure careers in high-demand fields,” says COTR President and CEO David Walls. “These students, then, are well-equipped to serve the needs of our communities and industry partners.”

In 2014, the Trust provided $1 million to Selkirk College to help it create a modern trades facility and upgrade equipment at its Silver King campus. And beyond the trades, in March 2019 the Trust announced support of $3 million each for Selkirk College and COTR over three years to develop, diversify and enrich programs and otherwise enhance the college experience for all students.

“Education, skill development and training for trades is essential to building a capable workforce and a strong economy in our region and beyond,” says Angus Graeme, Selkirk College President. “The opportunities for those interested in rewarding careers in the skilled trades will only increase in the coming decades. State-of-the-art equipment and learning facilities, and modern student life spaces, provide a fantastic environment to learn, gain confidence and be job-ready for a tremendous future in their chosen fields.”

Putting the skills to use

Maio and the business that hired her also benefited from the Trust’s School Works program. Since 2015, the Trust has helped employers hire apprentices—now in 17 trades—through its School Works wage subsidy program. The businesses get support meeting their workforce needs and apprentices gain local, career-related work experience.

“I feel strongly that the Trust’s apprenticeship program improves our workforce and skill set, which ultimately improves our community,” says Al Gluckman, in charge of apprentices like Maio at Purcell Timber Frame Homes. “The houses that we’re building at Purcell are being shipped all over North America, so the skill sets that are being developed here are having a far-reaching impact, as well as empowering our own community.”

Lilly-Anne McLaren is another apprentice who has studied at upgraded college facilities and been employed with the help of the School Works program. The COTR student is currently a first-year apprentice electrician working at Kimberley Electric Ltd.

Being an apprentice is “a good way to start making decent money while you’re still being trained, and the work is challenging and interesting,” she says. “I was born and raised in Kimberley, and it’s great that I can get my professional training within 30 minutes of home.”