Fair trade

Is­land high school stu­dents are get­ting a fresh, new in­tro­duc­tion into a pos­si­ble ca­reer in skilled trades

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - Front Page - BY JIM DAY

Mark Rogerson, a Grade 11 stu­dent, is mus­ing over be­com­ing a me­chanic.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure but it’s some­thing I’m looking into,’’ says Rogerson. “I think it would be some­thing great to do.’’

The 15-year-old stu­dent is tak­ing an au­to­mo­tive course at Colonel Gray High School, mak­ing him one of about 1,000 stu­dents en­rolled in one of 18 newly im­ple­mented Ca­reer and Tech­ni­cal Ed­u­ca­tion (CTE) skilled trades cour­ses now avail­able to Is­land stu­dents in vary­ing de­grees in all 10 high schools in the East­ern School District and the West­ern School Board.

The 18 cour­ses in­clude six each in au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy, weld­ing tech­nol­ogy and car­pen­try tech­nol­ogy.

The Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Early Child­hood De­vel­op­ment is also cur­rently de­vel­op­ing/re­vis­ing three cour­ses in foods and nutri­tion, one course in de­sign tech­nol­ogy and up­dated cur­ricu­lum re­lated to in­ter­me­di­ate tech­nol­ogy ed­u­ca­tion.

The con­certed trades thrust is the re­sult of the depart­ment act­ing on the P.E.I. Trades Strat­egy re­port that came out in 2005. The re­port pro­posed a new di­rec­tion for ap­proach­ing trades train­ing within the prov­ince at all lev­els.

In re­sponse, the depart­ment re­de­vel­oped cur­ricu­lum and eval­u­ated avail­able fa­cil­i­ties, in­struc­tors and prac­tices, says John Stephens, ca­reer and tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist with the depart­ment.

“Some schools ( had) of­fered nine cour­ses in one area, some of­fered one,’’ he said of the in­con­sis­tent hodge­podge of cur­ricu­lum that was in place.

“ When we started this process there was 36 dif­fer­ent car­pen­try cour­ses in Prince Ed­ward Is­land and post-secondary in­sti­tu­tions and ap­pren­tice­ships couldn’t iden­tify one from the other … now there is six and they are de­fined and all schools are us­ing the same pro­gram.’’

Kent Sheen, pro­gram man­ager of In­dus­trial Tech­nol­ogy and Trades with Hol­land Col­lege, lauds the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment’s “great strides’’ to­wards stan­dard­iz­ing cur­ricu­lum for skilled trades cour­ses.

“ There was (in the past) no sort of con­sis­tency from school to school,’’ he said.

The trade strat­egy also calls for get­ting stu­dents more en­gaged in skilled trades, to give them greater aware­ness of what is avail­able as a pos­si­ble ca­reer, and to give them a clear exit plan.

To meet that ob­jec­tive, says Stephens, the depart­ment de­signed a six-credit pro­gram in three dif­fer­ent trade dis­ci­plines — au­to­mo­tive, car­pen­try and weld­ing — with each dis­ci­pline hav­ing six cred­its with 660 hours of in­struc­tion.

The cur­ricu­lum ad­dresses core oc­cu­pa­tional skills, lit­er­acy skills, nu­meric skills, and em­ploy­a­bil­ity skills re­quired of skilled trades peo­ple.

CTE stu­dents are en­cour­aged to en­roll in co-op­er­a­tive ed­u­ca­tion

classes to sup­port their de­vel­op­ment within the skilled trades and get some real-life ex­pe­ri­ence in a skilled trade en­vi­ron­ment, says Stephens.

CTE stu­dents who main­tain an av­er­age of 70 per cent or greater may re­ceive up to 1,000 hours to­wards their ap­pren­tice­ship train­ing based on their tran­scripts and upon reg­is­ter­ing with the P.E.I. Ap­pren­tice­ship Divi­sion.

Sheen says Hol­land Col­lege is in the process of de­ter­min­ing what cred­its it may award to stu­dents com­plet­ing CTE pro­grams in high school.

Rogerson has been tak­ing note of what he needs to ac­quire in the way of grades out­side of au­to­mo­tive class in or­der to get into an au­to­mo­tive school.

“So that has kind of got me to try to bring up some of my other marks a lot more now that I see you need what­ever to get into it — not just that you can get ter­ri­ble marks in high school and get right in and be a me­chanic,’’ he said.

Trevor Dodds teaches au­to­mo­tive and weld­ing cour­ses at Colonel Gray. He con­sciously adds strong aca­demic com­po­nents to his cour­ses that in­cor­po­rate read­ing strate­gies, math­e­mat­ics and physics.

“It’s by far not an easy course be­cause of the chal­lenges with the text books,’’ he said. “And in the shop, it’s de­mand­ing. Th­ese kids are learn­ing how to do what the trade spe­cial­ists do in their fields.’’

Stephens says pur­su­ing a ca­reer as a skilled trades­man to­day means more than sim­ply be­ing good with one’s hands.

“I mean if you are go­ing to make it in skilled trades, you have got to be good with your head as well as your hands,’’ he said.

“It’s not just go­ing out and be­ing a labourer. You do have to be able to think. You do have to be able to rea­son and trou­bleshoot — and some­times on the spot, on your feet.’’

Stephens be­lieves the neg­a­tive per­cep­tion of trades as be­ing grunt work for aca­demic un­der­achiev­ers is, un­for­tu­nately, en­dur- ing.

“I don’t think you are ever go­ing to shake that,’’ he said.

“ The re­al­ity is that when you are in the skilled trades, you are go­ing to get your hands dirty and that looks dif­fer­ent than the aca­demic world.’’

Janelle Far­rar, 16, is a strong aca­demic stu­dent at Colonel Gray that also likes to work on cars. She is in the ad­vanced au­to­mo­tive course at the Char­lot­te­town school.

Still, she con­fronts the stigma that comes with choos­ing a ca­reer in trades.

Far­rar says she is looking to go to uni­ver­sity rather than col­lege in part be­cause she knows that is the pref­er­ence of her par­ents. She still may be able to com­bine her love of work­ing on ve­hi­cles with a uni­ver­sity ed­u­ca­tion. She says she likes the idea of teach­ing au­to­mo­tive cour­ses for a liv­ing.

“I’m kind of think­ing about it as a ca­reer,’’ she said.

Dodds says he has a good mix of aca­demic stu­dents, gen­eral stu­dents and prac­ti­cal stu­dents in his au­to­mo­tive classes. He says stu­dents have dif­fer­ent rea­sons for tak­ing the CTE pro­grams.

“Some kids just don’t like the reg­u­lar main­stream school,’’ he said.

Stephens says the depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion is not try­ing to in­crease the num­ber of trades peo­ple at the high school level. Rather, the hope is that stu­dents tak­ing CTE pro­grams will have an in depth un­der­stand­ing of what it means to work and learn in a skilled trade en­vi­ron­ment.

He says the big goal is to make clear to stu­dents what op­tions they have and to give them the tools they need to make an in­tel­li­gent and in­formed choice.

“ We haven’t gone out on a big re­cruit­ment drive,’’ he added.

“ We haven’t bean beat­ing the drum. I’m a big be­liever that if you build a solid pro­gram and you put the rigours in place and you are teach­ing to a stan­dard — and the stan­dard is high — that you will at­tract stu­dents to the pro­gram.’’

Guardian photo by Jim Day

Janelle Far­rar, 16, works on a car in an au­to­mo­tive class at Colonel Gray High School. Far­rar is con­tem­plat­ing a ca­reer in teach­ing such classes her­self.

Guardian photo

John Stephens of the P.E.I. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion says the 18 skilled trades cour­ses im­ple­mented this year in Is­land high schools should of­fer stu­dents an in-depth taste of the rigours in a ca­reer in car­pen­try, au­to­mo­tive or weld­ing.

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