Starting an apprenticeship is a very good idea for a young person these days.
There is little risk of burdening student debt, favourable job prospects, excellent wages, and with the average age of first year apprentices still around 29, you have an opportunity to hit your peak earning years a decade sooner than your fellow tradespeople.
Like all career choices, the first hurdle is the same, finding a job. Students may have taken a foundation program in their trade at a post-secondary in order to get the skills needed to be a valuable employee but employers may still be apprehensive. Luckily, there are employers in the North Okanagan who are hiring these young apprentices.
“He’s the best apprentice I’ve ever had,” said Red Seal carpenter Les Ryckman in describing Kevin Schilter, a 17-year-old Charles Bloom student who will be graduating this spring. The Youth Work in Trades program (formerly SSA) allows Schilter to learn skills on the job as a registered apprentice and have those hours counted for course credit towards graduation.
The hours will also contribute to the 6,480 hours he is required to complete as part of his requirements to become a journeyperson. As well as the work, he will have to attend post-secondary for technical training four times, each time for seven weeks. After that, he can apply for the Red Seal designation, the highest level of skilled trade accreditation in Canada. That process will take at least four years so Schilter is getting a big head start by getting to work in his Grade 12 year.
This sounds like a great idea so why don’t more students take advantage of this?
The reason is they need to find a job. Not just any job. A job as a registered apprentice working under a qualified tradesperson who can sign off on the student’s hours. For a student with little to no experience, this poses a challenge.
Most employers looking to hire would prefer someone who is already qualified and doesn’t require training or supervision. How do young students compensate for this lack of skills and knowledge that the industry desires? By having the third quality that the industry finds just as necessary.
Al Pelleboer of Pelleboer Construction saw that quality in Schilter and knew that it would add value to his company. So did Charles Bonsan when he hired Jake Emmons from Vernon Secondary School to work at the Phoenix Steakhouse as a professional cook.
Bonsan, a Red Seal chef, has been working with the Vernon School District for several years by allowing students to have work experience placements in his kitchen. Work Experience is a great way for students to try a trade as well as a great opportunity for employers to see if a student has the potential to be a valuable apprentice.
Dan Reid of Dan’s Garage understands the challenges faced by young apprentices. Kal Secondary student Sloan Rudderham convinced Reid to hire him as an apprentice auto service technician last spring and now Rudderham is ready for his first round of technical training at Okanagan College.
The Industry Training Authority (ITA) is changing the look of its high school apprenticeship programs. The program that allows students to take dual-credit foundation trades programs at post-secondary schools is now called the Youth Train in Trades program. Students who are hired directly by employers as apprentices are in the Youth Work in Trades program.
Chad Chase took advantage of the Youth Train in Trades heavy duty mechanics program at Okanagan College and was hired by Tolko after a short placement there as part of his program. Because he was still of school age, he was able to continue as a Youth Work in Trades student and is eligible for a $1,000 ITA scholarship as well.All Youth Work in Trades students who continue their apprenticeship after graduation are eligible for this scholarship.
Other local businesses who are sponsoring Youth Work in Trades students from the Vernon School District are Chapman Mechanical, First Choice Haircutters, IRL International, Mike V’s Automotive, Western Pacific Enterprises, and ATS Electric. Many others businesses have sponsored students in the past.
Students interested in apprenticeships should talk to a career coordinator or counsellor at their school. Employers who would like to hire a high school apprentice or find out if an employee qualifies as a high school apprentice should contact the Career Programs department of their district. In Vernon, contact email@example.com.
All school districts in B.C. offer apprenticeship opportunities for students.