Getting a jump-start on trades skills

Dayne Steiger will be graduating with more than a diploma later this month.

Employment boost: Dayne Steiger completed a pre-apprenticeship welding course before graduating from Grade 12.

Employment boost: Dayne Steiger completed a pre-apprenticeship welding course before graduating from Grade 12.

Dayne Steiger will be graduating with more than a diploma later this month.

Steiger is one of several Salmon Arm Secondary students who has been enrolled in the ACE-IT program.

Last August he began taking a six-month welding course at Okanagan College.

Steiger explains that when he was in Grade 10, he and his friend were in a power mechanics class at the high school working on small engines, where they were able to try welding.

They liked it, found out about the program and, a bonus feature, tuition would be covered by the province.

The only downside for Steiger was that because the course rotates between different campuses, the only way for him to take it was at the Vernon campus, not in Salmon Arm.

“In the beginning we did all the safety stuff, a lot of sitting in the classroom, a lot of theory basically,” he explains. That lasted for about two weeks and then it was full-speed ahead with welding.

The students learned three different types of basic welding. Mornings were theory, afternoons – practical work.

“Sitting in the classroom learning theory, it’s not the best… Out in the shop, how you learn, the atmosphere is just awesome. Along the way I met so many good people and made friendships – the whole way it’s set up is what I like the most.”

The hardest part?

“It’s a lot of dedication,” he says. “If you miss a day, it’s a big deal, you’re behind a whole day and you can’t make it up. It’s a lot of work.”

Overall, however, it was a great course.

“I’ve never done anything like it before. It was awesome, I loved it. I just had a great time there actually, I really enjoyed it.”

Steiger lives on a farm, so he’s been getting some practice doing small welding jobs. About two weeks ago he landed a job in the industrial park, and he’s thrilled.

Aidan Miege-Moffat  is also a graduate of the ACE-IT program and has been working for more than two years for an electrician.

The electrician program was held at the Salmon Arm campus of Okanagan College during his first semester of Grade 12, so he was able to take it there. He then did his final semester of high school and was able to find a job with All Phase Electric following graduation.

“I talked to my boss about it. He prefers to hire someone who’s done the course… It gives you a foundation, an understanding of the some of the stuff.”

As an apprentice, Miege-Moffat needs 6,000 hours of work and four terms of schooling, 10 weeks each year, to become a journeyman or red seal electrician.

“Doing pre-apprentice in high school got me my first year’s schooling already, so that was also very helpful.”

He’s since done a second round of schooling, so he has just two to go.

Miege-Moffat said the employment picture can be hard for apprentices because not all of them can do certain types of work.

“Education has helped, but what has helped is doing a bunch of different electrical things. Who you learn from, too, really helps.”

Overall he recommends the ACE IT program.

“Yes, for sure. It’ll help you get a job quicker and gives you a foundation to build on. Also, it’s six months long, and at the end of six months you kind of know if you like it or not. It’s good to know if you’re not sure going into it if you like it or not.”

What kind of person would be well-suited to becoming an electrician?

“Somebody who likes to work outside, but it’s not the most physically demanding job,” he says. “There’s lots of math and physics involved in certain things.”

For Miege-Moffat, it’s a job he really likes.

“It gives you an opportunity to learn something new every day, you’re not doing the same thing every day. We do lots of residential and industrial work.”

– More on page 4.