Students in high school can get a head start on a career in trades, in professions that are experiencing labour shortages locally and across B.C.
Students at Argyle Secondary take part in the school’s co-op program, which includes job placements with companies during their Grade 11 and 12 years, with the possibility of being apprenticed after graduation.
Kyle Robertson, owner and operator of Kybe Electrical Contracting in North Vancouver, has been taking a couple apprentices a year as well as high school students for 10-week career placements to give them a taste of what it’s like to work as an electrician.
Doing an apprenticeship is good for students who aren’t inclined to go to school right out of high school, Robertson said.
“It’s a nice stepping stone and you can add it to your list of expertise,” Robertson said. Trades certification can take two to four years and it’s something to fall back on if another career path doesn’t work out.
Becoming an electrician can lead to a wide variety of careers, Robertson said, either working on residential construction, in mining or the oil industry, or an electrician can become a project manager, an estimator or do electrical inspections.
Robertson took part in a similar program in his Grade 11 year in the year 2000; it was then called ACE, Argyle Career Exploration, whereby students did three different 10-week career placements. Robertson did a mechanics career placement first, but then ended up doing two 10-week stints in the electrical field. After graduating, he became an apprentice and within four years was a journeyman electrician. After eight years of working full-time, he decided to venture out on his own and start his own business.
When his company, Kybe Electrical, that employs 27 people, was well established, it was time to start giving back to his alma mater by taking on students from the co-op program, run by Wayne Shaw, Robertson’s former P.E. teacher.
All apprenticeships with Kybe Electrical start with safety training – apprentices will go with experienced electricians to job sites and start off with simple, supportive tasks while being initialized into the safety aspects of the job.
Kybe Electrical sponsored their first Grade 11 student in March 2015 and he continues to be employed the company. He started working the Kybe every second day throughout high school, continued full-time in the summer and then again every second day in his Grade 12 year. He then became a full-time apprentice as well as doing his first-year electrical training at BCIT in the spring.
Kybe has had two other students become full-time employees after coming through Argyle’s co-op program.
In a 10-week job placement, Robertson sees a lot of progress in the students.
“It can be a great confidence booster for a student who has never stepped onto a construction site,” he said.
Robertson’s story is a typical one for students graduating from Argyle’s co-op programs, said Shaw, the co-op work experience coordinator at the North Vancouver school.
He has partnered with several businesses run by former Argyle students who are now running their own businesses in the trades, including Bayroot Landscaping, Clear Energy Solutions and Tandem Construction, and who take on work placement students.
Argyle’s co-op program is a discovery program for students to explore a career in trades before enrolling in a post-secondary program, Shaw explained. It exposes the students to the real world, builds their confidence and gives them a taste of what the job is like before they go into a career and realize they don’t like it.
“(The co-op program) has inspired a lot of kids who might not have had success in the classroom,” Shaw said.
The two-year program welcomes about 30 students per year and as part of the class, the students also complete their English, math and two electives as well as a computer application course and a data management course. The work placements, upon completion, count as credits toward graduation.
Through the co-op program, students have tried their hand at a variety of careers – auto service, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, welding as well as other non-trades careers like real estate, sales, marketing, cooking and baking.
Shaw said he’s always looking for new business partners who can take on students for work placement.
“It’s great to have support from Kyle because it’s hard to find those companies that (have) resources and time to help these kids,” Shaw said, adding Robertson is very thorough and extremely professional with the students he takes on.
He’d like to find more companies specifically on the North Shore to partner with in order to keep commutes down for his students.
Kybe gave a $750 bursary to a graduate of the Argyle Secondary School Co-Op program to be applied towards the first year tuition fee of a Red Seal Certified Trade of their choice.
Kybe electrical earned the “Best Apprenticeship Training in B.C.” award from Small Business B.C. in 2016.