Northwest BC students interested in pursuing careers in the trades after graduation received an investment in their future on October 18, thanks to LNG Canada.
The Shell-backed joint venture project, which hopes to open an LNG (liquefied natural gas) export facility in Kitimat, donated $100,000 to three high schools in northern BC through the “Project Shop Class” initiative, which was started by the Construction Foundation of BC, under the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA).
Those schools include Mount Elizabeth Middle School in Kitimat, Hazelton Secondary School in Hazelton, and Veritas School in Terrace. Mount Elizabeth Middle Secondary School was donated a new milling machine, which was on display at the announcement.
Representatives from Coast Mountain School District 82, LNG Canada, and BCCA were on hand at Mount Elizabeth for the announcement, along with shop and construction class students and a number of community members.
Manley McLachlan, president of the BCCA, spoke about the aging workforce in BC, and how getting younger people interested on the trades can help in the long term.
“Two out of every three workers in our industry here are over the age of 45, so we have an aging workforce, and we have a need to expand the number of participants, expand the opportunities for students to get into that workforce,” said McLachlan.
“All of that work starts here, right here in this kind of room,” he said.
McLachlan also talked about the types of equipment that are found in northern BC shop and construction classrooms, and how that equipment isn’t at the same level as what is being used in the industry today.
“I went and looked at the machine that this thing is replacing,” he said, gesturing at the new milling machine next to him. “I understand it was installed in this building when this building was built, in the late 50’s, early 60’s.”
“Now it’s an incredible testament to the quality of the machine that it still operates,” McLachlan said with a laugh. “The reality is, anybody who’s trained on that machine will very likely not run into that kind of machine when they get into (the workforce,)”
“Because of your donation of this milling machine, our students will continue to have the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning experiences, and develop new skills in their metalwork classes,” said Mount Elizabeth principal Geraldine Lawlor.
With the donation giving a much needed boost to encourage younger people into the trades workforce in the northwest, Kitimat Valley Institute (KVI) president Sherrie Little said she’s very excited about what it means for the industry, and possibly working with her institute and the school, in order to give students more skills.
KVI provides skilled training for individuals looking to gain work or certification in the trades.
“I think this is when we need to get the kids (interested,) in grades 7,8, and 9, it’s an amazing piece of equipment, I may have to say, ‘hey, can we borrow that?’” she joked.
“We’ve got some amazing expensive equipment over at KVI, is there a way to work with the two instructors and have some time set aside that (students) could come in (to KVI.)”
Little says she thinks that encouraging kids to pursue trades in Kitimat, without having to leave to get their certifications, could help grow more of a local workforce.
“We’re working on some other ways that we can keep the kids here, there’s some different things that we’re looking at, how can we offer more diverse offerings to people here,” she said.