Trading Up: Skilled trades make a comeback in New Brunswick schools in partnership with local businesses

Lisa Hrabluk
May 29 · 3 min read
The Skills Canada National Competition taking place this week in Halifax, NS brings hundreds of students together to demonstrate their abilities in a variety of skilled trades. (Photo: Skills Canada)

Over the years I’ve written a lot about the Maritimes’ strong personal and business networks. As the joke goes, out here it’s not six degrees of separation, it’s more like two or three.

In our emerging knowledge era that interconnectedness can be one of the region’s greatest strengths because success will come to those jurisdictions that accelerate the flow of people, products and information. Mobility now defines us. Just consider how dependent we have all become on our phones to provide us with instantaneous information and keep us connected to the office and to our friends and family.

As we consider how our education system needs to evolve to suit our changing world, mobility needs to figure prominently in our plans.

Enter the Maritimes’ close business and personal networks, which are built on strong degree of trust nurtured through long-standing relationships. That trust enables Maritimers to, when they are motivated, to accelerate the creation of strong multi-sectoral networks to drive change.

That types of relationship is harder to come by in large cities and provinces simply because of size. New Brunswick, it would seem, is just about the right size for building trusting relationships across sectors.

An interesting example of this is the relationship between New Brunswick education institutions and industry in the development of skilled trades.

This week in Halifax the CWB Welding Foundation (formerly known as the Canadian Welding Bureau) will be highlighting its $285,000 trilateral partnership with Irving Oil and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) to support welding training in the Saint John area.

The funding was used to purchase welding equipment and make major upgrades to the welding shops at Harbour View High School, Simonds High School and Hampton High School, with upgrades to St. Malachy’s Memorial High School to be completed later this year.

“For the CWB trilateral partnerships are usually more successful because its able to leverage more investment in welding. Their whole goal is to grow the number of welders and provide skills for industry in the future,” said Darren Hanscomb, EECD’s learning specialist for skilled trades, business and work-ready electives.

“We can look at working with industry to help train students who are interested in a particular career path. We [EECD] don’t have the resources to retool and have the latest technology but we do need to upgrade to a certain standard. Industry has the latest technology. By the time we buy the technology and get it into schools and train teachers, it’s out of date. It doesn’t make sense for us to invest in that; it makes sense for us to partner up with industry and work together to provide those experiential learning opportunities for students so that they get a true picture of what they’re getting into and they’re better prepared for realistic job prospects in the province as well.”

According to Hanscomb, New Brunswick’s advantage has been its ability to create a province-wide partnership, rather than simply a district or school-based project.

“School by school or district by district has happened in a lot of other areas of the country. With us, CWB is highlighting that by doing a provincial approach and partnering with the CWB and working with industry we are able to leverage more funding and have a bigger impact,” he said.

“When we’re talking about re-envisioning trades we’re not talking about putting back what we had, because the vocational school model didn’t work. If you’re an automotive service technician, today, you’re dealing with a lot of technology and multiple onboard computers. To be an automotive tech that’s actually working in diagnosing vehicles is very similar to the skill set required for engineers.”

Lisa Hrabluk is a writer and owner of Wicked Ideas Media. Find me on Wicked Ideas’ Facebook page or on my personal LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.

School Works is a solutions journalism project and partnership between Wicked Ideas and the New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) Anglophone Sector.

School Works

Stories about how change is happening in public schools in New Brunswick, Canada. A partnership between Wicked Ideas Media & the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD).

Lisa Hrabluk

Written by

Founder, Wicked Ideas. Word nerd. I'm ordering up culture that goes pop, politics that snaps to it and conversations that crackle. @lisahrabluk

School Works

Stories about how change is happening in public schools in New Brunswick, Canada. A partnership between Wicked Ideas Media & the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD).