AT RANDOM: Trading towards a job

The ideal job is one that provides satisfaction while at the same time pays enough to enjoy a decent standard of living

The ideal job is one that provides satisfaction while at the same time pays enough to enjoy a decent standard of living.

At the recent Pro-D Day presentation at Vernon secondary school, Larry Espe stressed the need for more high school graduates to enter the trades.

Espe is the newly appointed superintendent of trades and transitions for the Ministry of Education, who was a longtime teacher and principal in the Peace River North School District.

With billions of dollars of proposed projects across B.C., he said there will be a shortage of skilled workers if more grads don’t end up choosing trades over academics.

The trades are essential to keeping the economy going, and Espe made an excellent point when he said it’s time to stop looking at the trades as second-best to attending university. “We have had a system where we have had a lot of smart people made to feel they are not smart,” he said to the audience of teachers who had packed into the VSS gym.

His presentation was lively, funny, thought-provoking and filled with entertaining graphics and videos illustrating his points.

But in talking to one teacher afterwards, she said there is often too much emphasis these days on simply going to school to get a piece of paper that will lead to a fat pay cheque.

Fulton English teacher Jane Maskell said the idea of encouraging students to get into the trades while at the same time taking away the stigma is a good one, but she also believes there is still a need for education for the sake of getting an education.

“What about being educated for the purpose of being a well-rounded, educated person,” she said. “What kind of a person do you want to be? I am asked why I teach Shakespeare, but every single person who has a degree has learned how to think. Your life is very limited if it’s all about work and making money.

“There is too much emphasis on the practical, where people are questioning the value about learning the history of our country or reading great works of literature.”

I see her point. Is knowledge of the Bard’s plays going to help me get a job? Perhaps not, but is understanding great literature going to make me a more well-rounded person? Yes, I think so.

As a high school student unsure of what career path I wanted to take, I used to question what I perceived as my parents pushing me to go to university.

I can remember telling my dad that I had no idea what I wanted “to be when I grew up,” and so why should I bother. He always told me that I could figure that out eventually, but that simply getting an education is never wasted.

OK, I get that with student loans, the cost of tuition these days, not to mention the eventual cost of living for graduating university students, it’s perhaps not always practical to enter a field of study for which there won’t necessarily be a job waiting.

I eventually went into first-year arts, taking a variety of courses, none of which led to a job, all of which were interesting.

But I love the idea of learning for the sake of learning. Just ask any of the members of the Society for Open Learning and Discussion. The Vernon group meets weekly to listen to a guest speaker, followed by discussion. As a guest speaker, I can attest to the genuine curiosity of SOLD’s members, all of whom asked thoughtful questions. They all struck me as not only interesting, but interested.

My mother had always wanted to earn her degree, but stayed home to raise her three kids. Once we were all in school, she began taking courses, simply because she was always curious about the world around her, taking courses ranging from anthropology to English.

In high school, one of my most useful courses turned out to be a trade: Grade 9 typing, a skill I use daily in my work. But I’m also grateful to have taken courses that introduced me to Holden Caulfield, The Canterbury Tales and Homer’s Odyssey.

The joy of reading great works of literature — or trashy beach reads for that matter — is not something to be taken lightly.

When I eventually settled on journalism as a career, I was required to take several elective courses to round out the program, such as economics and political science, along with courses in Canadian Press style, how to write a lede (lead, in layman’s terms) and interview techniques.

For me, learning a trade has been a great career choice, but I’m glad it’s not the only thing I learned.

—Katherine Mortimer is the lifestyles editor for The Morning Star