Recent History – 2004-2006
By Gary Rusak
The initial step of a new apprenticeship program was celebrated at Northern Lights College on Wednesday afternoon. Twenty-one students in the piping trades and residential carpentry programs received their first and second year theory certificates at a ceremony in the front foyer.
“We are really quite proud of this accomplishment for Northern Lights College,” said principal Howard Mayer. “It is quite a groundbreaking event for us. My understanding is that we are the first in the province to graduate people in the trades training program.”
The students will now be able to continue their apprenticeship with an employer while getting paid. The new program transfers some of the responsibility for apprenticeship training from the employers to participating colleges.
“The employers were obligated to register them before,” said Jeff Lekstrom, manager of trades and apprenticeship for Northern Lights College. “Now we have taken that on. We have registered the apprenticeship to the college. What that does is the employer doesn’t have to do any of the paperwork it gives the employers a leg up and it gives the students a leg up.”
Both the piping trades and residential carpentry students can look forward to two more years of apprenticeship training before they are fully recognized in their chosen trade. Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom said that the program is one part of the government’s strategy to fill the need for skilled labour across the province.
“We have a skilled labour shortage in British Columbia and we are trying to address that,” he said. “We made a commitment as a government that we were going to focus on trades and apprenticeship training and now we are seeing some positives.”
The MLA added that the college deserved a pat on the back for executing the program.
“We can set a regulatory environment in place but it’s the instructors that make it happen,” he said. “We should be very proud with what we offer here at that college.”
Piping trade student Sheldon Mackrell said the five-month course was definitely worth it.
“Now we can get out and get into the workforce,” he said shortly after receiving his Worker ID number. “I should be working as soon as I get out of this course.”
Tom Bird, also in the piping program, said that he turned to the trades after his logging job disappeared.
“Downsizing in the logging business is basically what brought me here,” the Powell River resident said. “My goal with this in the end would be self-employment when I am finished everything.”
Mayer added that he was happy to see more high school students taking the apprenticeship courses in conjunction with their regular curriculum in order to get a head start in the trades.
“The hours are there and the work is there,” he said. “They can make a very good living as a trades person and it is a very fulfilling career as well.”