'I feel real proud': Squamish Nation trade school doubles number of classrooms

School unveils a $1 million upgrade that features additional classrooms and workshop

School unveils a $1 million upgrade that features additional classrooms and workshop

Two students of the Squamish Nation Training and Trades Centre attend the grand unveiling of its upgraded facility. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

It wasn't easy for Ray Baker to push himself out of his comfort zone — and apply to go to trade school.

"I had odd jobs here and there, and I wanted a career," he told CBC News. "I was real shy."

The Squamish Nation member enrolled in the Training and Trades Centre — an Indigenous-run school that helps First Nations students develop technical skills in carpentry, piping and even office administration.

Unsure of which avenue to pursue, Baker eventually found himself in the carpentry program.

That's where he uncovered a hidden passion for the trade. He would eventually be hired by the school as a lead worker for a major renovation to the Training and Trades centre — one that would double its capacity for students.

Ray Baker says he's not so shy anymore after becoming a skilled trades worker. (CBC)

Upgrades unveiled

The Squamish Nation unveiled its renovations to the Training and Trades Centre on Wednesday. The facility has grown from two to four classrooms and features additional workshop space.

Coun. Khelsilem says the space offers programs that are both culturally relevant and supported by the community. Since it opened in 2004, it has trained more than 500 apprentices and over 400 skilled construction trades workers, according to the school.

These students are the first to enjoy the new facility — which has double the number of classroom and additional workshop space. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

"We want to get people working," said Khelsilem. "But we also want to get them good paying jobs. We don't want our people in working poverty — we actually want to give them careers."

The school received a $1 million contribution from the Western Canada Diversification Investment, which enabled the upgrades.

Baker said there was a call-out for successful graduates to be a part of the renovations. He was recruited to be one of the lead workers for the eight-month project. Once complete, he says it was an emotional experience to walk through the new halls.

"I feel real proud, because this is the first big project that I did," he said.

Ample opportunities

Priscilla Fraser says she long had her sights set on attending trade school and is now in the first year of the Training and Trade Centre's carpentry program. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Priscilla Fraser is part of a new cohort of students taking the Introduction to Carpentry program.

Much like Baker, she sees the course as the first step on a pathway toward a stable career that's fuelled by the region's growing demand for housing.

"There's so much construction going on on the North Shore right now," said Fraser. "I think it would be a really good benefit for myself and many others that come into the program."

Last year, the school ran 13 programs with 200 students. About 120 of them have jobs or have returned to school.

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