Try on a Trade!

SD8 Kootenay Lake anticipates growth in trades training for students

What was anticipated to be a year of upheaval due to pandemic protocols and resulting program constraints, the Youth Trades program for SD8 - Kootenay Lake is finishing the school year on a high note.

“Despite COVID, our trades programs made considerable progress this year,” said Brent Firkser, SD8 Trades Training Coordinator, “We focused on fostering community connections, establishing skilled trades scholarship and bursary awards, and working to ensure all of our students throughout the district have equal access to trades training opportunities.”

As part of the Youth Work in Trades program, the district has formed valuable community partnerships with local employers including Downtown Automotive in Nelson. Owner of the shop, Doug Brackett, firmly supports trades training programs stating, “With the evolution of technology in our industry, it has become increasingly important to attract candidates with a whole new set of digital and communications skills.” Downtown Automotive has gone entirely digital and specializes in vehicles with advanced tech components. The shop typically has at least one student apprentice on staff, working directly with a Red Seal tradesperson. Youth Work in Trades is a dual credit program that allows students to earn high school credits through paid work opportunities. “There still exists massive shortages for skilled employees in the trades, which makes partnerships between teaching institutes and businesses even more essential” adds Brackett.

An anonymous local benefactor echoed this same sentiment and has been instrumental in creating the Kootenay Trades Skills Award this past year. The donor saw the need for more young skilled tradespeople in the community and made a generous donation for a bursary intended for graduating students that are entering a traditional skilled trades program after high school. For the 2020-2021 year, a total of $3500 was awarded to four students in the district in recognition of this award.

Participation in trades programming can begin as early as grade 10 for SD8 students. Both the Youth Explore Trades Skills and Youth Explore Trades Sampler programs introduce students to the world of technical trades, helping them figure out early on what path to pursue when considering entering a career in the trades. At Salmo Secondary school, there is a definite appetite for these types of programs. A cohort from Salmo has eagerly signed up for the Youth Explore Trades Sampler program in partnership with Selkirk College next year. “It’s great to see the interest growing, there is even a waiting list!” said Jon Francis, Principal of Salmo Secondary. “Building off the success of our existing trades program at the school, we are excited to partner with Selkirk next year.”

The Trades Sampler program was affected by the pandemic, having to take a year’s pause due to decreased capacity allowances on Selkirk campuses. “We are excited to welcome high school students back into our facilities next year,” said Rob Schwarzer, Chair of Selkirk College’s School of Industry & Trades Training. “This sampler program really gives students a good idea of which specific trade fits their unique interests and goals. We’re excited to see it up and running again.”

And there are always some students that know early on exactly where they are headed! 2020 Mt. Sentinel Secondary graduate Yana Woods completed her high school diploma a year early, and successfully completed the Youth Train in Trades program with a focus on Welding. In this past year she has completed her C-level Welding ticket and entered a ladder program into Metal Fabrication which will finish up this July. Yana already has secured employment for the summer with a subcontractor that will utilize her welding and metal fabrication skillset, working on the improvements slated for the Kootenay Lake Ferry terminals.

“We are proud of Yana for taking such initiative with her learning,” said Firkser, “She’s a great success story for our trades programs, and we’re excited to see all of our programs grow next year!”

SD8 Kootenay Lake Youth Trades Mission is to help students find a rewarding and reliable career the incorporates their strengths. For additional program information, visit


For more information:

Brent Firkser – SD8 Trades Training Co-ordinator

About the Board of Education of School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake):

The Board of Education of School District No. 8 provides educational services to numerous diverse communities in the East & West Kootenays, including Crawford Bay, Creston, Kaslo, Meadow Creek, Nelson, Salmo, Slocan, South Slocan, Winlaw, Wynndel and Yahk. Its dedicated team focuses on providing the best possible educational opportunities for over 5,400 students and their families. Its mission is to focus on excellence for all learners in a nurturing environment.