More local high schoolers turning to trades

·3 min read

Kevin McGifford, Principal of Diamond Vale Elementary and SD 58 Trades and Technology Coordinator, says there has been an increased interest in trades training in secondary schools.

Thanks to a new dual credit program and partnerships with post-secondary institutions, students can work towards their high school graduation and a Red Seal Trade Certification by accumulating school credits alongside hours towards their apprenticeship levels.

“Students can access dual credit opportunities, where they earn high school graduation credits and hours towards their apprenticeship levels,” explained McGifford.

“Currently five students in our district are participating in this model. We need the support of local employers to increase our student engagement, but we are moving in an upward path, thanks to employers who are willing to sponsor students in an apprenticeship.”

In his role as District Trades Coordinator, McGifford also acts as a sponsor for students, and can support tuition costs, which allows families to send an eligible child to a post-secondary instituion for Level 1 Foundation Training in a Red Seal trade.

“The family bears the cost of tools and basic supplies, but the student saves the cost of tuition and that is a fantastic savings,” said McGifford.

“Added benefits with this model are that students can earn up to 16 credits towards graduation from high school, while earning a Level 1 Foundation in a trade. This model means students will be attending a full-time foundation program, usually in Grade 12 and still graduate with their peers at high school.”

Over the past several years as trades become a more popular career choice, more than 60 students have been supported in pursuing a Red Seal trade.

“A few students have gone in different career directions, but what an amazing gift, being able to decide on what you may want to do for a career at the age of 18,” said McGifford.

“Others have completed their four levels of their Red Seal path in less than three years. That means we have students on average, completing their Red Seal by the time they are 19 years of age. We have students who have completed their level 1 through Youth Train and been signed on by local employers at the age of 17.”

Despite a global pandemic and the changing landscape of education, student engagement in Youth Train and Youth Work has nearly doubled in the past year and a half. This involves a partnership between SD 58, Industry Training Authority (ITA) and several Post-Secondary Partners such as NVIT, Okanagan College and TRU.

The most popular programs have been Heavy Duty Mechanic, Millwright, Welding, Culinary Arts, Electrician and Residential Construction.

Students are encouraged to begin considering their potential career path in grade 10, and school counsellors can assist in designing a transition to trades plan for the student through grades 11 and 12.

Local employers who are willing to take part in Work Experience partnerships and sponsoring students in an apprenticeship are also asked to reach out to either Kevin McGifford or David Andersen at:

Kevin McGifford: or

David Andersen:

Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald