Our project is unique and distinct from other similar programs due to the number of partnerships we have established, internal support mechanisms for students, cultural sensitivity, and employment and graduation options. This program offers students an opportunity to validate any prior trade experience and comfortably re-enter the school system with the hopes of pursuing trade certification.
As Career Coordinators in the Saanich School District we recognized a group of vulnerable learners who could benefit greatly from a tangible learning environment where they learn by doing. The regular school learning environment was not working for many of these students. Our candidates range in age from 15 to 51 years of age; none have any trade certification. In the Spring of 2011, Camosun College invited us to take the lead in a pilot project that would enable students to explore seven trades areas in a hands-on learning environment. We seized this opportunity to expose our students to a variety of interactive learning activities and developed a delivery model that would see students receive technical training, participate in a work experience practicum with community based employers, and earn credits to help them graduate. Students who successfully complete the program will gain certification in WHMIS, First Aid, Fall Arrest, Flag Person, and Fork Lift Operation which will make them more appealing to potential employers. As soon as we established the partnership agreement between the school district and Camosun College we approached Pauqauchin First Nation to be our principal partner but also had discussions with Tsawout, Tsartlip, and Tseycum Nations to share our vision of the TASK program. Pauqauchin representatives met with their band council and decided to partner with us to deliver this program. Pauqauchin undertook substantial renovations to their community hall to create a teaching space for the program on their reserve.
The five-month program is comprised of four months of technical training during which time students will be placed with a community based employer for one day a week. During the final month of the program students will complete an unpaid, full-time work experience practicum that we believe will lead them to paid employment through the summer and beyond. This model sets a student up for success and for a seamless transition from school into the world of work, with an ongoing commitment to continuing education. They will be coached on how and when to return to a technical training institution for successive levels of training in their craft.
One of the greatest challenges to the success of this program is attendance. Students will be guided through an examination of past personal management systems and encouraged to reflect on and create change in their lives. We have incorporated the practice of cultural circle time to help students reflect on their past practices and to work on essential work readiness skills. We have engaged a mature Aboriginal trades person as an assistant to support the college instructor in the classroom, to help bridge any gaps in learning, and mentor students through the program.