High schools have changed, and the change is a good one, according to Hope Secondary School’s vice principal, Karl Koslowski.
“We really make an effort to take a phenomenal group of young people and prepare them for a successful future in a changing world,” observed Koslowski as he walked through the school, pointing out the high points of the impressive array of academic and non-academic activity centres at the school.
“For example, the welding program is something pretty unique here at Hope Secondary. It’s a program that we’re very proud of, a program that’s really setting a group of students up for a career that could last a lifetime if that’s what they choose to do,” he said.
The welding program is an initiative launched by the Thompson Rivers University and works in conjunction with B.C. school districts to deliver entry-level welding training to high school students with a view to opening the door to a career direction not normally available within the high school setting.
It takes place in a 12 welding bay expandable trailer, located in the back parking lot of the school. The trailer has the capacity to deliver the welding foundation program while being mobile enough to travel to various rural and remote communities around the province.
“When the young people in the program graduate, they will have their level 1/2 welding ticket and a foot in the door to pursuing a career in this field,” explained course instructor Michael Granger.
Granger oversees the program and comes to the role with impressive credentials that can’t help but inspire his students. Besides being an educator, he holds Red Seal tickets in both welding and metal fabrication.
The story of how the program found its way to Hope is something that still brings a smile to Granger’s face and he called upon Dr. Karen Nelson, superintendent of schools for school district 78, Fraser Cascade, to explain how it all happened.
“I was carpooling to a conference in Vancouver and got into a conversation with the superintendent of the Kamloops school division about career training. He mentioned this program and passed me his card over the back seat and suggested I call him about it after the conference,” said Nelson.
She did call, but when she contacted the program managers she was initially disappointed.
“I managed to get us on the list for the program but we were told that it was a two-year waiting list. That was in 2014. But then in March of 2015, I got a call from the administrators saying that another school had needed to withdraw and we were offered their spot. We pulled it together very quickly, getting board approval and funding and, by 2015, we had our first program in place and graduated 10 students from the training.”
The trailers now return to Hope Secondary every two years under an agreement that stretches into 2021.
“One of the really great parts of this training is that, in both of the years that we’ve offered welding, we’ve had one or two adults join the class. This year we have one under agreement with WorkSafeBC. These adult students work alongside our young people (who are generally 17 to 19 years of age) and they both benefit from the interaction. The adults bring a certain maturity and life experience to the mix that helps the young people in the program in a way that enriches the actual training program,” said Granger.
Koslowski is very proud of the program, and the students who have managed to successfully complete the training.
“Preparing young people for life is what we’re about, and this program is a great example of our commitment to that objective.”