A Sicamous business will be playing a big role in the education of local high school students keen on getting a foothold in trades.
Today is the first day of class at Twin Anchors Structures (TAS) for a handful of Eagle River Secondary (ERS) students with a desire to apprentice in a trade. The program is a pilot project organized by TAS president Greg Kyllo, ERS and School District #83, and will provide students with both course credits as well as apprenticeship hours towards post-secondary trades training. It will also give students who put in the required 90 hours of work experience, and are willing and able to continue, a paid job in their trade of interest.
Kyllo says this initiative was prompted, in part, by concerns he heard last year while running for District of Sicamous council. He said a lot of people he heard from were concerned for the future of the high school, and what might happen if enrolment continues to decline. He says he was also inspired by one of his daughters, who he says wasn’t very interested in school until she enrolled in a hairdressing program offered through the school district.
“Suddenly, it was something that she liked, she enjoyed it, straight As, did really well, got her hairdressing certificate – It helped to keep her in school,” said Kyllo. “I thought, it’s a great program, I don’t know why we can’t do some more programs with trades and things at Eagle River.”
Another concern of Kyllo’s is employee retention, and he says TAS tends to have greater success with “homegrown talent.”
“If we can bring them onboard and get people trained up, we get a really good retention rate,” said Kyllo. “So the thought was maybe there’s an opportunity we can help the school district, help the kids, and at the same time provide a bit of training so we can help improve the retention rates for workers at the factory.
All of this led to a meeting with Shuswap MLA and former education minister George Abbott, which in turn let to a meeting with school district superintendent Dave Witt. And then things snowballed to the point where they are now, much to the joy of the school district, including district career supervisor Mark Marino.
“I think it’s a great opportunity …,” said Marino. “TA Structures is making a commitment to hire youth and to apprentice youth, and it’s something that our community direly needs, our province dearly needs, our country dearly needs… the crunch is starting to happen, especially in the Lower Mainland. A lot of tradespeople are moving up north… and I see what Greg is trying to do, trying to provide a reason for youth to stay in the Okanagan.”
Going into detail about the program, Marino says that a student who successfully completes both the school’s and TAS’ application/interview process, and who fulfills their 90 hours, would become a secondary school apprentice, who will train in a trade under a journeyman or experienced worker with sign-off authority. Students who complete 480 hours will receive 16 high school credits, while those who complete 900 hours prior to graduation would be eligible to receive a $1,000 scholarship. All hours worked will count towards the student’s apprenticeship under the Industry Training Authority.
Work at TAS is complemented with technical training through the school district’s Ace-It (accelerated credit enrolment in industry training) program.
ERS career co-ordinator Sandy Moody shares Marino’s excitement about the apprenticeship opportunity Kyllo and TAS has opened to students.
“We do have apprenticeship relationships with some of the other businesses in the area as well, so by no means do I want to demean what they’re doing by promoting Twin Anchors, but Twin Anchors has so many opportunities under one roof for our kids – electrical, plumbing, welding, carpentry, cabinetry,” said Moody. “It’s going to be an absolutely wonderful opportunity for them and we have quite a few kids already who are quite excited.”
For now the TAS program is only open to ERS students, though Marino says the idea is to have it open up to the entire school district.