With the current demand for qualified people in the trades, and the upcoming shortage that has been forecast from both industry and government agencies, the timing was right to pursue new trades training initiatives. Over the past several years, the Cowichan Valley School District along with Vancouver Island University and Camosun College have partnered successfully on several programs that have created opportunities for students in their grades 11 and 12 years to participate in trades courses and apprenticeship programs under the dual credit opportunity offered by the Ministry of Education.
Students who successfully complete accredited courses and programs at the post secondary level while attending their grade 11 and 12 years receive credit at the secondary school level. In addition, the school district pays the full tuition cost for the student while at the same time receiving funding back from the Ministry of Education when the student successfully completes the course or programs. In the most recent school year (2019-2020), over 250 students participated in at least one dual credit course or program (trades and academic).
Recently, VIU, School District 79 and Cowichan Tribes signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” that speaks to the need to collaborate on educational programming, particularly in the area of Trades Training and Dual Credit Programs. All parties are intent on offering programs for our aboriginal students to enable them to achieve a higher rate of graduation success as well as transitioning in post secondary programs and careers. As a result of this emphasis on Aboriginal student engagement, the number of dual credit aboriginal students participating in trades training has increased from 2 students in 2011-2012 to over 60 students in 2019-2020.
With the past reconfiguration and closing of schools in the District, the opportunity arose to re-purpose Koksilah Elementary School as an educational facility focusing on Trades Training. At the May 2013 School Board Meeting, the following motion was passed, “That the Board of Education establishes the Cowichan Trades Centre on the former Koksilah Elementary School site and pursues trades training opportunities with post-secondary institutions, First Nations, and other organizations.” Since then, VIU and SD79 agreed to partner on the development of a Trades facility at the current Koksilah School site and have signed a 10 year lease agreement. This facility meets most of the curricular needs of VIU’s programs and renovations will ensure that all classroom and shop spaces meet the needs of university level programs and ITA standards.
Existing programs in Refrigeration Air Conditioning Mechanic, Carpentry, Trades Sampler, Hairdressing, and Welding that were being offered at several Cowichan locations including SD #79 sites moved to the new Koksilah site. Also, program planning and construction of a facility onsite to deliver welding instruction (Level C and welding fitter) was completed in 2014. There are over 150 students (both adult and dual credit secondary students) participating in trades training at the site at anygiven time. The facility has been a tremendous success and is meeting the needs of the local community.