The Black Gold School Division will have a seat at the table when the Province’s recently-established Career Education Task Force meets this fall. The task force will work on creating stronger connections between education and Alberta’s labour market, and focus on career education for students in grade 7-12 and how to effectively prepare them for seamless entry into post-secondary studies or employment.
The task force includes leaders from industry, labour, post-secondary institutions, government departments, and the education system. It also counts among its ranks long-serving Calmar Secondary School Career and Technology Services (CTS) teacher Darren Roth.
Darren has been working for Calmar Secondary School for over two decades, and he has dedicated his time and efforts in training students to industry standards so that they can successfully transition to post-secondary certification and into the labour market.
One of the ways he inspires success is by encouraging his students to enter various provincial and international trade skills competitions. A growing number of his students – like Trevor Fandrick, who won the CNC Turning competition as a part of Team Canada at the WorldSkills International in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2015 – have enjoyed much success and have gone on to develop flourishing careers with companies across the province and beyond.
“I am both excited and a bit humbled by this opportunity,” said Darren. “As someone who spends a lot of time teaching youth foundational shop skills, I understand and appreciate the importance of the skilled trades to our manufacturing sector and for Alberta’s long-term economic success and global competitiveness.”
Darren was asked to join the task force after he ran into Education Minister Adriana LaGrange when he was running the machining skills competition at the most recent Skills Alberta event. “The minister was going around to the various competition sites, asking people how they felt they would deal with the shortage of skilled workers in the province,” he explained. “We chatted for a while and she gave me her card, and that’s basically where it started from. I emailed her a few ideas, and a week or two later I received a phone call inviting me to be on this task force.”
The Career Education Task Force will hold its first meeting in September, and will continue to meet and engage with various education, industry and business stakeholders across the province to hear their perspectives. It will also evaluate the existing career education programming to determine opportunities for improvement, and work to create a framework that will inform future career education programming. The task force will deliver its final report at the end of the year.
Darren has not yet received any particulars for the upcoming meeting, but he expects the organizers to reach out to the task force members shortly. “I was checking out the list of members recently, and there is a wide variety and scope of skills, experiences, and talents represented,” he said. “I look forward to meeting everyone, building collaborative relationships, and representing Black Gold at the table.”
One issue he hopes will be addressed by the task force is the ongoing erosion of shop facilities in schools. “From what I have experienced over the years, funding allocations for CTS spaces, shop equipment, and correspondingly instructional times, seem to be getting smaller and smaller due to the rules and formulas currently in place, especially for new school construction,” he said. “If you don’t have the proper facilities and tools to teach these foundational skills, you will continue to see diminishing student interest in the trades.”
He also feels that there is a lack of incentives at the post-secondary level to encourage individuals to train as teachers interested in teaching CTS courses, along with a lack of in-service support. “Collectively we need to do a lot better in making the skilled trades more attractive and accessible to our students,” he said. “By investing in these middle and high school programs, we can show students that certifications in the skilled trades are just as valuable as university degrees. Remember, it is the skilled trade professionals who take technical concepts and ideas and make them manifest.”
Career education programming currently offered by Black Gold schools include Career and Technology Studies, where students take courses to develop practical skills and enhance their employability and/or post-secondary prospects; dual credit programs, where high school students can earn both high school and post-secondary credits, as well as registered apprenticeship and work experience programs.
For more information, please visit https://www.blackgold.ca/schools/programs