Learning employment skills on trails

The Skills Link Program in Hope has recently added a new trails component

The Skills Link Program in Hope has recently added a new trails component.

The Service Canada initiative, which is locally administered by Free Rein Associates, provides funding for employers and organizations to offer eligible activities to youth facing barriers to employment. Funding decisions are based on regional and local priorities as well as community needs.

“It’s teaching employment skills,” said program leader Scott Penner. “We go through the classroom component and then we do some work placements throughout the town. We have a number of businesses that are helping us out taking on some of the kids for mentorship. There’s been really good success rates, with about 80 per cent of past kids maintaining long-term work.”

With Hope moving towards a greater focus on eco-tourism, Penner said it seemed a logical fit to partner with Hope Mountain Centre on trail maintenance and improvement.

“We’re working with the kids on the trails learning practical workplace skills: safety, communication, initiative, planning and organizing, and technology,” he said. “It’s a very cool partnership because the town gets to benefit from better trails, more kids are working, and it helps eco-tourism for the community.”

A group of 12 youth have already completed a week of work on the Hope Lookout Trail, with another week planned later this month. They helped with building staircases, directional signage improvements, and rock work. Kelly Pearce, Hope Mountain Centre program director, said it’s been a huge resource since it typically takes a lot of time to get a group of volunteers together.

“It’s wonderful to have a consistent group that’s really focusing day in and day out on that trail,” he added. “The trail really deserves it. It gets a lot of traffic and it’s an important part of Hope’s image to have a few of these standout trails that are well-maintained.”

The group started each work day by packing tons of treated wood and cedar planks recycled from old BC Parks picnic tables up the trail. In addition, they carried their own lunch along with various tools including shovels, picks and saws.

“It’s all been really hard physical hands-on work improving the trail tread,” said Pearce. “Particularly intensive is using the wood to pre-build these big wood boxes which we fill with soil to build steep staircases. Being a rainforest environment, we just want to make the trail safer for the public.”