Delta School Districts Enables Students to Learn on the Job

Category: District

For most Delta high school students, the start of the summer vacation means time to kick back, relax and have fun. This summer, that was not the case for students Mike and Lukas who were successful in applying for apprenticeships with the school district. They started the summer vacation reporting to work at 7am at the district’s Tilbury depot, and both were extremely happy about it!

“It isn’t every day that you hear that a school district will hire one of their own high school students,” said Lisa Chapieski, District Coordinator, Student Options and Opportunities. “This year, we had the ability to help two students that have an interest in the trades get a head start on their technical training and better prepare for further education in their chosen trade by offering two apprenticeships through the Work in Trades Program.”

Through the program, students work 900 hours with a credentialed journeyperson in their trade. As well as earning a salary, they gain training hours credited to apprenticeship completion requirements, and also earn up to 16 graduation credits if they are still in high school.

“All of our tradespeople are Red Seal Certified and can provide valuable mentoring to our students. Given that we are in the business of education, it’s really rewarding to be able to offer our own students the opportunity to gain valuable trades experience with our highly skilled Facilities staff,” said Lisa.

The school district advertised the two positions in May and more than 20 students submitted formal applications. Of those, six were shortlisted for a panel interview which involved Darren Duff, Director of Facilities and Planning, Nancy Gordon, Assistant Superintendent, Harry Kumar, Manager of Facilities, Lyle Harrison, Architectural Foreperson, and Lisa Chapieski. “We felt it was really important to give students a chance to experience the hiring and interviewing process,” said Lisa. “All of the students were asked why they wanted to work in the trades as part of the interview process.”

“I like working with my hands and I knew I didn’t want to be working in an office all day,” said Mike, who joined the district as an apprentice painter. “My interest in painting started a few years ago when I helped my Grandpa paint his deck. I found it easy and enjoyed seeing how much better the deck looked after a fresh coat of paint.”

Mike is entering Grade 12 in the fall and was accepted as a student to attend the Level 1 painting course at the Finishing Trades Institute next summer. Mike will have his tuition paid for by the school district as he was a successful candidate in the interview process.  It takes about three years of working and studying to become fully qualified. He is being mentored by Robert, a Red Seal certified journeyman painter who has worked at the school district for the last 11 years.

“Robert has been teaching me different techniques, and I’ve already learned some of the more tricky things like filling holes and cutting in around window sills,” said Mike. “Painting is something I have found I am good at and really enjoy as every day is different. Ultimately, my goal is to join the police or become a firefighter. Learning a trade gives me a solid career path while I gain the qualifications needed to join the Police or Fire department. Painting is a valuable skill that I will be able to use at any time, for example, even between shifts if I become a first responder.”

Since starting with the school district, Mike has been busy helping Robert on several projects at schools including repainting exterior walls at Sunshine Hills and Pinewood Elementary Schools, and filling, sanding, priming and repainting walls at Cliff Drive and Hawthorne Elementary Schools and Delta Community College. They will also be heading to Port Guichon Elementary to repaint the daycare, North Delta Secondary to repaint a room for students with diverse abilities, and Pinewood Elementary to repaint the first aid room and washroom.

“Mike was quite nervous when he heard he’d been selected for the apprenticeship as he was worried he might not be good at it. It has been wonderful to see his confidence grow over the last few weeks,” said Lisa. “It will take him about three years to become fully certified. I’ll be supporting him to access training courses and find work placements through his final year at high school, and will work with his school counsellor to ensure his painting hours count towards high school credits.”

Apprentice electrician Lukas, who graduated from Seaquam Secondary this year, has a similar motivation for pursuing a career in the trades. “I also like working with my hands and did not want a desk job. Training as an electrician involves so much math and physics – I enjoy using my brain to solve problems. It’s challenging but, so far, I’m loving it and I can’t believe how much I have learned in the past few weeks,” said Lukas.

It will take around four years for Lukas to complete his training to become a Red Seal certified electrician. Lukas hopes to attend BCIT or Kwantlen to complete his studies, but due to COVID-19 and the need for colleges to reduce class sizes, the waitlist for Trades courses is long. His advice to other students considering a career in the trades is to plan ahead as you can take your level 1 electrician while in high school. Make sure you have all your pre-requisites and apply!

“This is a great career choice for me. There is always going to be a need for electricians. If anything, that need is only going to grow over the coming years so this is a career path that provides great job stability as well as a good salary,” said Lukas.

Lukas is being mentored by Desh, a Red Seal certified electrician who has worked at the school district for 8 years. “Lukas has a bright future ahead of him. He is doing a fantastic job and learns really quickly. I would say he already understands the concepts of a Level 3 or 4 apprentice. Working as an electrician is hard work, both physically and mentally but Lukas has the right mindset to succeed in this line of work. It’s been an absolute pleasure having him on our team.”

To date, Lukas has worked with Desh on updating light fixtures at Health and Chalmers Elementary Schools, and upgrading a panel at Burnsview Secondary School.

“Although Lukas has graduated, I will continue to provide advice and support through the Work in Trades Program,” said Lisa. “His time at the district is enabling him to build his resume and make contacts within the trades. In addition, both Mike and Lukas will also be able to get references from the district once they have completed their 900 working hours.”

“Although most people might think that all is quiet in schools over summer, that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Darren Duff, Director of Facilities and Planning. “For our Facilities staff, the summer is one of the busiest times of the year. With the schools empty of staff and students, we take the opportunity to carry out important upgrades and maintenance work. We are thrilled to have Mike and Lukas join our team this summer. They are both doing an amazing job and we wish them every success in their future careers.”