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Pemberton Secondary Students to build a home

New school-district program gives students hands-on experience in multiple trades
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A new program run out of Pemberton Secondary School could be the ticket for students looking to explore various construction trades as career options.

In spring 2020, School District 48 (SD48) will build a new home on a lot adjacent to the school.

Yet instead of hiring a firm to build it, the school district has decided to take a different approach.

"Rather than just hiring a construction company, we thought, 'Well, what a great opportunity to provide a purposeful, authentic, hands-on learning opportunity for our students," explained SD48 sssistant superintendent Chris Nicholson.

"We are looking to attract a cohort of kids who are interested in gaining real-world experience in the house-construction industry, while at the same time offering a core academic approach."

The program is open to Grade 11 and 12 students, with students studying core curriculum in the fall and winter before undertaking the construction project in the spring. According to Nicholson, the coursework will be tied to the theme of construction.

He added that while the core focus of the initiative is on senior students, there would be opportunities for younger kids to help out on things such as landscaping.

The proposed lot, located on Poplar and Aspen streets, is currently zoned Public (P-1). The school board has submitted an application to The Village of Pemberton to re-zone the proposed lot to Residential 1 (R-1) to permit a single detached dwelling.

SD 48 has proposed a home that will either be sold on the private market or serve as staff housing for teachers (known as a "teacherage").

The decision is ultimately up to the Ministry of Education, said Nicholson.

"If we were to realize some benefits we would look to reinvest that into another lot we have," said Nicholson, referring to a separate SD48-owned lot (7995 Taylor Rd.).

"Either way, we'd be happy to build another teacherage or another home for sale."  

The initiative comes as B.C. and the Sea to Sky region is facing an acute need for skilled trades workers.

Buildforce Canada, a construction industry association, estimates 17,000 non-residential construction jobs could be needed in the province between 2019 and 2021 alone, as B.C. moves forward with major projects such as the $40-billion LNG Canada project and the Trans Mountain project.

"We recognize the needs for our kids to have a real-life skill set. We know that the trades is a growing industry, and there's definitely a need for new workers," said Nicholson.

Participating students will earn work experience credits needed for graduation.

They will also earn credits towards a program run by B.C.'s Industry Training Authority, which exposes students to four or more trades and offers workplace safety training.

The hours cannot, however, be put towards Red Seal Program certification, as SD48 was unable to hire a Red Seal certified teacher to run the program, said Nicholson in a follow-up email.

Nicholson said that he sees the project as a good way to offer a solid introduction to the trades in an area without a dedicated trades school.

"I think that districts are sometimes constrained by their location and proximity to post-secondary institutions that offer pre-college courses," he said. "We feel by offering this kind of experience we are going to attract a lot of interested folks."

The program is open to all SD48 students.

Nicholson advises interested students to get in touch with their guidance counsellor for more information.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the proper zoning for the proposed lot.