Roughly 40 grade 11 and 12 students from Avon Maitland District school board high schools across Huron and Perth counties got a jumpstart to their potential careers in the trades Wednesday during the Tools in the Trades Boot Camp in Stratford.
Hosted at the school board’s Pathways Innovation Centre at Stratford Intermediate school, the Boot camp offered local senior high school students enrolled in the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship and specialist high skills major programs the chance to gain hands-on experience in the electrical trades and learn the soft skills that will ultimately help them obtain and keep a job in any skilled trade.
“Right now, the student are doing basic electrical, residential wiring. … They’ll actually do all the wiring – the whole project – and they’re going to get a power pack up on top to add electricity and allow them to check it off for continuity. Then they’ll be getting lights on there and switches to turn the lights on to make sure it’s all wired properly,” provincial Boot camp manager Josh Wells said Wednesday morning as students worked on sample circuits under the guidance of instructors and other local electrical tradespeople behind the school.
Funded by the federal and provincial governments, Wednesday’s session was just one of several trades-specific Boot camps beingoffered by Tools in the Trades.
“It’s a day in the life. … As an organization, we’re trying to bridge the gap between the huge need for skilled labourers right now and getting the information out there. This year, we’re doing 20 high school camps and 20 adult camps across the province. … Electrical is only one of our programs. We do millwright, HVAC, and transportation technology as well,” Tools in the Trades operations co-ordinator Andrea Birrell said.
While half of the students worked on electrical circuits Wednesday morning, the others were inside learning essential employability skills to put them on pathways into apprenticeships after they graduate.
While not all students who participated in Wednesday’s Boot camp will pursue work as an electrician, Birrell said the day still gives them the hands-on experience needed to help them make a decision one way or the other. The students who participate in the Boot camps also get free starter tool kits worth nearly $300 to take home at the end of the day.
“We wanted to make sure that we offered all of our students who were actually interested in the trades a dedicated opportunity to come talk to people who are in the actual industry,” said Avon Maitland District school board pathways co-ordinator Jodi Froud. “There’s people walking around who work for Tools in the Trades, and they’re helping the students, they’re answering questions on what their experience were, and they all have different experiences.
“A big part of it is to connect kids with industry people who are actually telling them what employers are looking for. … Employers can train the kids, but they need them to have that other piece, the employability piece.”
Diversity among the local tradespeople and instructors at the Tools in the Trades Boot Camps, Birrell added, is also key to ensure every student who participates can identify with people who work in the trade they’re considering as a future career.
While some students at Wednesday’s Boot camp took the opportunity to spend a day outside of the classroom learning new skills or reinforcing skills already learned, both Jacob McNee, a Grade 12 student at Goderich District Collegiate Institute, and Carrie Kemp, a Grade 11 student at Mitchell District high school, said they are seriously considering a career in the electrical trades after they graduate.
“(I’m interested in) something along the lines of (electrical trades) either with automotive or residential,” McNee said. “I’ve done this kind of thing before, and it comes easy and I like it. It’s pretty fun to do. … I don’t remember a lot of the stuff I’ve learned (at these Boot camps) before, but it comes back to you pretty quick. I have a few ideas of what I want to do (after school), so everything I’m learning here helps just to help point me in the right direction and show me where I’m at.”
Kemp shared plans to attend future sessions hosted by Tools in the Trades.
“I’ve always been kind of interested in the trades,” Kemp said. “My dad works in the trades. I’m more of a tradesperson than anything else. I live on a farm, so I grew up kind of used to it. (Electrical) is one of my top things that I’ve kind of picked out (for a potential career). … This is my second Boot camp and I’ll definitely do it again.”