Joan Ragsdale, career and trades liaison for the School District 91 (Nechako Lakes), prepared a presentation to Village of Burns Lake council on Jan. 13, 2015, proposing a partnership between the school district, community and industry.
The goal of the partnership would be to strengthen the offering of trades programs for high-school students and to guarantee work opportunities for students once they graduate from high school.
The Accelerated Credit Enrolment in Industry Training (ACE IT) programs are the in-class component of a high school apprenticeship. ACE IT students are youth apprentices registered with the Industry Training Authority (ITA). Students who successfully complete the ACE IT program earn credit towards both high school graduation and a post-secondary credential.
The School District 91 has already been offering ACE IT programs.
Since 2008, there has been 117 students within School District 91 who completed their ITA training while still in high school. Ninety-four of those students completed their training in the Lakes District Campus of the College of New Caledonia in Burns Lake. On average, 17 students take six different ITA trades programs every year within School District 91.
One of the challenges faced by the school district is to ensure that these programs are reliable options for students.
“What happens right now is that there is no guarantee for these programs,” said Ragsdale. “They have had last-minute cancellations, and the students that had signed up for these courses had to switch their options in the last minute.”
The second challenge would be to increase work and apprenticeship options for students.
“We want to ensure that students will have that opportunity [of finding employment] before they leave high school,” said Ragsdale. “We need a commitment from the industry to hire students.”
The school district proposed to council the development of agreements with the industry that would ensure local apprenticeship options for students.
“We need a commitment to providing those options for students, to build our work force locally,” she said.
The proposal also included a five-year ACE IT pilot program, where there would be a guarantee to provide a minimum of one ACE IT program each year in the community of Burns Lake, Fort St. James and Vanderhoof, with rotational offerings in Fraser Lake.
“These initiatives are completely dependent on the school district working together with industry and community,” she said. “This is what our government would want to see – work sites as the classrooms of the future.”
Mayor Strimbold said the council will consider the request of the school district during the next council meeting on Jan. 27, 2015