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Trades Sampler Program at Selkirk College Offers Clarity for High School Students

Bob Hall
By Bob Hall
May 9th, 2019

The push to start high school students on a rewarding career in the trades has been bolstered with a program aimed at presenting the array of choices available at Selkirk College.

The Youth Explore Trades Sampler (YETS) is currently underway at Nelson’s Silver King Campus where seven students from L.V. Rogers Secondary and Mount Sentinel Secondary are immersed in activity on the trades-based Selkirk College facility. The students started their hands-on sampling of the trades in February and will wrap up with 16 high school credits by June.

“The trades sampler is fantastic for those students who are not sure what they want to do,” says Brent Firkser, the Trades Training Coordinator & Innovative Learning Services District Teacher for School District #8. “Getting a breadth of knowledge gives these students a taste. It’s kind of like a buffet at a restaurant where you get to try everything on the menu, so that the next time you go you can decide if you just want to have the steak. This way they can get exactly what they want.”

The YETS program is targeted at students in Grades 10 to 12 and is a new province-wide initiative hatched by the Industry Trades Authority (ITA). High school students interested in trades get the chance to spend 300 hours on campus in five different shops and finish the semester with a month long on-site practicum in a field of their choice. Participants get full graduation credits for the semester that would be equivalent to taking four classes at their high school.

The students currently enroled in the program based in Nelson spend time with Selkirk College instructors in the newly refurbished carpentry, welding, millwright/machinist, electrical and metal fabricator shops.    

“It really helps to set them up for success when they get to the foundation program they choose,” says Rob Schwarzer, chair of Selkirk College’s School of Industry & Trades Training. “They will have a very good idea of whether that specific trade fits with what their goals are and something they want to pursue as a career.”

Students who take the YETS program in Grade 10 or 11 have a chance to then take a full foundation program in the trade of their choice through the Youth Train in Trades Program. Both the YETS program and Youth Train in Trades Program are paid for by the provincial government, no post-secondary tuition is charged to the student.

“To gain more success with our students in Youth Train in Trades, we want to provide them with that taste so they can really make an informed decision versus just jumping into something that might not be the right fit,” says Firkser, who started his own trades training in the Carpentry Program at Selkirk College.

For Grade 12 students who take the YETS program, they have the chance to enter a foundation program after high school graduation.

“The idea behind it is for students to get a sense of what trade would be a good fit for them. Within the program there is a lot of hands-on work and projects,” says Schwarzer.

The YETS program includes several field trips that sends the class to visits at Teck Trail Operations, local dams and service technician shops. Students also receive three different certifications that include fall protection, first aid and WHMIS (workplace hazardous materials information system).

The skills learned in all the shops, combined with the certifications and familiarity with a variety of trades, sets students up for more lucrative summer job opportunities to go along with the ultimate pursuit of the trade of their choice.

“They get a general awareness of all the other trades and what they do,” says Firkser. “So when they do get onto a jobsite, they have a much better understanding about what it’s like to work alongside other trades and can relate to what they are doing.”

For students interested in pursuing a career in the trades, both YETS and Youth Train in Trades can provide the perfect head start on completing a Red Seal certification. The key to taking advantage of the opportunity is to start thinking about it early.

“If you want to take this pathway, then you really need to plan it out correctly,” says Firkser. “If you do that then it’s totally possible to spend your last year-and-half of high school at the college starting your career.”

Students who have questions about either program can consult Brent Firkser for more information at

Learn more at Selkirk College School of Industry & Trades Training.  

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