June 13th, 2024

Inspiring youth to enter trades key for industry success


By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on October 25, 2022.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke Owner George Kirkham gives a tour to educators Monday at Southland International.

Southland International held an informational session for teachers and administrators in the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division on Monday to learn more about the future in trades and the many career possibilities that are out there for students.

With programs like the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) and Bill 67 (Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Education Act, STAEA) Alberta is seeing more career opportunities in the trades field.

“People need a different way of educating themselves,” said George Kirkham, owner of Southland International, a truck and trailer dealership in Lethbridge. “It gives people an opportunity to explore other careers. Here at Southland, we put our money where our mouth is and we act. We have done tours with schools to get them to see the possibilities and interest in these areas.”

Trent Ervin, apprenticeship and industry training officer with Alberta Advanced Education, was also at the session to help those in attendance understand the changes coming for students looking at careers in the trades.

“We changed our mandate and how we do things on July 22, it is called the new STAEA Act as opposed to the AIT Act,” said Ervin, “It is an exciting time with the apprenticeship and the RAP program coming on board.”

Ervin also notes there are around 51 trades right now, with more coming on board as industries come to the government and switch to the trades, taking part in the apprenticeship program.

Speaking towards trades, Kevin Wiber, associate dean for Lethbridge College, noted the shortage of jobs in the trades industry and how the opportunity to jump in for graduating students is viable at this time.

“We are at a point now where every trade out there is crying for people,” said Wiber. “The only way to fill that gap and find those qualified trades people, is to go back to the youth and start dealing with entry level areas. It’s a great place to make good money and be involved in job satisfaction.”

Wiber says the College offers dual credit programs in a wide variety of areas to help students pursue their future.

“We are highlighting an introduction to the trades with our dual credit offering. It is designed to be a pathway, a start for them with a wide variety of sprinkling on a bunch of different trades that we offer at the college,” said Wiber. “Once students have gone through that, they will be able to narrow down their focus and we will work with them to narrow down their focus.”

Teachers and administration in attendance noted the importance of highlighting every career possibility for their students, wanting to showcase everything their talents can do. “We should be exposing them to as many opportunities as we can,” said Lance Rosen, teaching Welding and Fabrication at Catholic Central High School. “Taking them on tours, bringing in speakers to the classroom, shows them that there are other areas if you don’t feel like university is the right fit for you.”

Touring around the facility, Southland was able to showcase how trades can open many doors for students in the workforce, helping open the pathway to further education with more options.

“I want to help those guys and gals get to where they are a productive part of society,” said Kirkham. “Today you should be proud of what you are doing in the trades. Things are changing, it’s a pretty cool industry.”

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