April 17th, 2024

Collegiate institute expands opportunities in trades for youth

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 9, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Education minister Demetrios Nicolaides speaks about the Southern Alberta Collegiate Institute youth program for trades on Friday at Lethbridge College.

Various representatives and stakeholders from southern Alberta school divisions, along with government officials, gathered at Lethbridge College to join the college’s Youth Initiatives Team Friday in learning more about Southern Alberta Collegiate Institute and its programming.

“Just really excited to be here in Lethbridge for this important day and important event,” said Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides. “I think it’s really important and critical that we expose more students to opportunities in the trades, and some of the things that are happening here at the college and with a lot of their partners through the collegiate school are really ground-breaking.

“I think the community should be really proud of what they’ve accomplished. It’s really helping to make a difference and get more students looking at dual credit opportunities, experience in the trades, where we need to encourage more students to look at opportunities in. So they’re doing an amazing job, and we want to be there to help support them however we can.”

Joelle Reynolds, associate dean for youth initiatives at Lethbridge College, shared the importance for diversity within industry representatives to see the impact Southern Alberta Collegiate Institute has on the youths.

“It’s just really important to bring in all of these different groups, so that they can learn from one another about the momentum behind the work that we’re doing through the Southern Alberta Collegiate Institute,” said Reynolds.

Judy Stolk-Ingram, executive director of Career Transitions, explained the partnership Career Transitions has had with the youth trade program.

“Career Transitions, is one of the founding partners of the pathways partnership of southern Alberta,” Stolk-Ingram said. “This is a group that formed almost two years ago, just with the intention of creating opportunities, that are better career pathways for students, to provide students with some experiential learning.”

Nicolaides noted that money has been set aside in the 2024 budget to expand future collegiate-style programs.

“We also are looking at ways in which we can strengthen, generally, career education in our K to 12 curriculum. We have career and life management, which is a component in high school, we want to look at ways to perhaps strengthen that or just create a stronger focus on career education and the development of career skills in our education system,” Nicolaides said.

Reynolds said the goal behind Southern Alberta Collegiate Institute youth programing is to give kids the opportunity to explore career paths before they fully invest into post-secondary education programing.

“Our goal is to remove barriers for as many students as possible so that they have some opportunities to explore career pathway,” she said. “It’s really valuable for students to have the chance to try something out on a really small scale, try to single course talk to an industry representative while they’re taking that course and get a real authentic understanding about what that career pathway might look like.”

Stolk-Ingram pointed out an important piece of the program is helping students find a bit of a spark, and she noted there’s a percentage of students for whom the traditional school isn’t necessarily ideal.

“They’re there, they want to be active, they want to be engaged, and something like the dual credit programming that has been created through this partnership with the College is really just having such a tremendous impact on the lives of youth,” said Stolk-Ingram.

Nicolaides said there is shortage in trade workers, but there is a plan to fill the gaps.

“The Minister of Advanced Education has provided some additional funding to create over 3,000 more spaces at our colleges and polytechnic institutions,” he said. “So there’s of course demand for more people to enter into these programs. With that funding, we hope to be able to create more than 3,000 spaces at our colleges.

Reynolds said she has noticed students in the program are more engaged in their studies at high school, and want to be there.

“We’re hoping to foster increased completion of high school,” she said. “That is something that’s important to our secondary partners and it’s important to us, as well as the college.”

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