The announcement this week that the government is going to spend $15 million over 3 years in high schools is a welcome surprise. How could it not be? As the president of the BCTEA I have heard so many members say that “Technology Education is where youth get a chance to experience and hone skills that often lead into a trade. Yet we do not see the support from the Ministry of Education or government. There has been millions of dollars going to Post Secondary trades training, but not much at the high school level”. Well here comes an opportunity for each of us to show what we do. I am going to share my interpretation of what is unfolding. I have attached the two documents that have gone out to school districts with the call for proposals at the end of this Post.
The funding is targeted towards trades awareness and training. We have seen this demonstrated through all the youth programs the ITA offer, trying to get more youth to enter the trades. Putting this into perspective, we have a need for more youth to get started earlier into the trades or we will not have enough skilled people to sustain our economy. It has been identified that we cannot follow the same path we have been on and wait until youth get older and then decide to get into a trade, thus the figure of 28 as the average age for an apprentice. The province needs that number to be much lower. Whether you believe philosophically or not that we should stream youth at an earlier age, there just are more people retiring than are heading into trades. We have to get youth started earlier.
The ITA has been listening very closely to our needs in the high school shops over the last few years. Historically, funding has been mainly targeted to post secondary training initiatives. Finally, it is being recognized by all parties that funding needs to go down to the high schools and thus we have the $15 million available to school districts. What I found very exciting is that in Appendix 1, all the regular ITA youth programs are listed, and that ADST is also included. That is huge. Will it be treated equally when proposals will be reviewed? I believe that if strong arguments can be made as to the connection between your shop and youth heading into a trade, then we will see some significant upgrades in your shops. We owe a huge thanks to the ITA and other government officials that have obviously worked hard to assist Technology Education teachers.
As a district career coordinator I am very familiar with all the ITA youth programs. I also feel very fortunate to be a Technology Education teacher and thus have the shops at heart. I think this funding has a lot of potential. There could be new courses/programs evolve that have a more trades focus. I know of several already; the TASK program on South Vancouver Island, or Metal Mechanical Coop on the Mid Island plus the already established ACE IT programs and many skills exploratory courses. The future directions workshop at the conference addressed a lot of questions about where we are now and where we are heading in the future.
Here are some tips that I think may help your district secure some of the funding.
- Tech Ed teachers need to be a part of a district team preparing the proposal. This will become evident when you read through the documents. Having an LSA will make this job so much easier. The Career Coordinator for your school and district will also be very pivotal in this team. Facilities and senior admin must also be included. If you haven’t built this network yet, then this would be an important starting point.
- Just as in a job application, tailor your proposals towards what the objectives are. “Increasing the number of youth going into and following through with a trade. “
- Be very knowledgeable about all the youth ITA programs. They have a fantastic web site, lots
of resources, etc. http://www.itabc.ca/
- Workbc web site is also very helpful if you want to look at some labour market demands for your area https://www.workbc.ca/
- Be creative and open to some change. I like to remind myself that if what we have been doing in the past is not getting enough youth interested in the trades, then what new approaches can be taken to obtain a different outcome. If the target is to increase youth going into the trades, what new courses could we be offering?
- If a district was ever thinking about starting up an ACE IT program, or the new course “Youth Explore Trades Sampler”, now is the time to do this. When ACE IT first started there was similar start-up funding.
- Look at how you can partner with the Youth Discover the Trades activities, or Maker Days.
- Add in a Skills Exploration course or two. Remember the ITA will give you $100 per student, so matched with some funds from this program for tools and equipment; you could actually create a good course.
The amount of funding that is being targeted towards trades is very significant. We should recognize this and try to capitalize on it and improve our shops for the students that love to come in and build things. The window of opportunity will not be around for much longer, so let’s make hay while the sun is shining.