The Sooke School District is tackling the trades shortage head on with its welding programs at Royal Bay secondary in Colwood and Edward Milne Community School in Sooke.
Funding from the CWB Welding Foundation, including $75,000 for Royal Bay, recently helped purchase new equipment. Joe Saundercook, manager of fund and partner development at CWB Group, said the SD62 training would help address a lack of welders in the industry, which is being impacted by labour shortages.
Royal Bay student Riota Vangenne has taken five metalworking classes during his time at the school and plans to enrol in the Camosun College metalworking foundations program. He is looking to study welding at the college after that.
“My favourite thing about metalworking is being able to say that I made something, I made something with my hands,” he said.
Matt Harmeson, dual credit trades instructor at Edward Milne Community School, said demand has gone up since their program started two years ago, but the main challenge is having enough shop space to accommodate extra students.
The welding program is part of the SD62 careers and transition program that seeks to get students interested in trades training while in high school. Dual-credit programs allow students in Grade 11 or 12 to get high school and college credits simultaneously. While the welding programs at EMCS and Royal Bay are in high demand, there’s still a shortage of trades-trained students graduating and joining the workforce, Harmeson said.
“One of the challenges that we have is as the economy grows, so more jobs training enrolment goes down. Because when you graduate, you can just go work. So imagine you’re 18 years old, somebody offered you $26.50 an hour with virtually no skills or no certification. It’s a pretty easy decision,” he said.
“You need people and support groups like this in our school district to be like, ‘Hey, listen, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. You need to get a certification.’ That’s one of our big challenges.”