SCHOOL’S IN: Shop talk

We need teachers to inspire our young adults to consider trades training

It’s amazing how often you come across people who give up a high salary and decide it’s time to give back.

Giving back is often associated with teaching, especially if you have skills which are in high demand.

A good example of this is someone who teaches shop at the high school level.

To teach shop at a public secondary school in B.C. requires two things. One, you need to have completed a teaching degree with a focus on trades technology education and two, you need to have an aptitude for the trades. This would mean skills in such things as automotive service, welding, electrical and carpentry, to name a few.

It’s the second thing which draws workers away from teaching and into industry, which pays significantly more.

Today, plumbers and electrician have wages well beyond those of teachers.  If you take into account those who are willing to move up north for work, the wage is often double. It’s not uncommon for Red Seal certified trades professionals to make more than $100,000 per year working in the mining, and oil and gas industry across Canada, mostly in remote areas.

Shop teachers, on the other hand, although they have better working conditions and work less hours per week, don’t usually make a wage above six figures.

So why would you become a shop teacher if you could take your aptitude for the trades and make significantly more money?

I think one of the main reasons is that you are probably the type of person who wants more out of your job besides money.

The idea of giving back to a group of young people, seeing them find how rewarding it can be to work with their hands and at the same time instilling within them a passion for the trades is probably something that drives you to teach.

You may also realize that working away from your family, travelling in and out of camps and putting in long days isn’t something you are willing to do, regardless of the pay. I think this may be why some trades workers later on in their career may consider becoming shop teachers.

Although it isn’t easy for teachers in some areas of Canada to find full-time employment, there is demand for trades teachers as industry tends to draw people away from this profession.

Currently, Okanagan College offers a two-year diploma in trades technology teacher education, which starts this fall. Upon completion of the diploma students will transfer to UBC’s Okanagan campus to complete their teaching degree.

If you are interested in the trades, have industry experience and some certification you might want to consider this career. We need teachers to inspire our young adults to consider not just university degrees but trades training as well.

Jane Muskens is the registrar at Okanagan College. Comments can be forwarded to