Melding school with career

Grade 12 student Kean Peterson knows what he wants to do when he graduates.

Shop time: Kean Peterson hones skills acquired at school in a work study program at Action Safety Service.

Shop time: Kean Peterson hones skills acquired at school in a work study program at Action Safety Service.

Grade 12 student Kean Peterson knows what he wants to do when he graduates.

And thanks to School District #83’s Secondary School Apprenticeship (SSA) program, Peterson will be able to walk out of the classroom and into a job.

Peterson has completed Level 1 Automotive Service Technician at Salmon Arm Secondary with instructor Gary Lebeter and has been getting work-based training at Action Safety Service Ltd. in Salmon Arm.

Peterson works pretty much full time in the summer and part time while going to school.

It’s a program that meets with the approval of Peterson’s father, Roy.

“I think it’s great, it gives the kids a head start and into the trades,” he says, noting that once students leave high school, many don’t pursue more education. “It’s great they have that opportunity, and they come out with a job.”

Another bonus is that while Peterson is acquiring career skills, he’s also getting high school credits for his effort.

“It’s really good, it’s a free education and everybody really enjoys the program,” says Peterson, who gives high marks to Lebeter, his teaching ability and methods. “You gotta pay attention, listen and work. You have to be serious or you will not last.”

Mornings are devoted to theory and afternoons to hands-on work in the Sullivan campus shop.

“He (Lebeter) owned a shop so he treats you exactly as  an employer would – he doesn’t let stuff fly, he makes you do a proper job,” says Peterson, who crammed in all the other credits he needs to graduate. “I didn’t enjoy regular school. The only time I enjoyed going to school was when I was in Lebe’s class.”

Peterson, who is thinking about a career in heavy-duty mechanics, is hoping to be eligible for the $1,000 SSA scholarship after he graduates in June.

In the meantime, he will work as many hours as are available at Action Safety, where business owner and mentor Bruce Hall has, for many years, supported the automotive service technician trade program.

“It works well for me. Linden Young came here 15 years ago after he went through program,” says Hall. “They come to me on work study, then I get to keep them.”

Most of the students who enrol in the program are keen about the industry and work hard, says Hall, noting the program doesn’t just help him out with well-trained employees, it helps to keep some of the kids in town instead of heading out to the oil patch.

But Hall points out he doesn’t keep every student that does their work study with him.

“They don’t all work out,” he says. “They also have to get along, this is a small work space.”

It’s these kinds of opportunities that excite Mark Marino, School District #83 career supervisor.

Students are getting various types of credits through the Ministry of Education, plus credit from the Industry Training Authority, the organization responsible for trades training in the province.

As well as SSA, School District #83 participates in the Accelerated Industry Training (ACIT) and a non-trades program – both of which are tuition free.

“The last part is a non-trades programs in which students take post-secondary courses such as English 100, business certificates or sociology,” he says, noting 16 students in the district are taking first-year university courses online through Thompson Rivers University. And others are taking political science on-campus at Okanagan College.

“What I like about the career program is that we provide relevancy,” says Marino, who sees the program as a way to help meet the gap that will be caused by a looming labour shortage.

“Another thing that excites me is the partnership between parents, students, employers and the school district,” he says. “I think that is very powerful.”

Interested students or parents may get in touch with their school’s career centre, or email Marino directly at