P.E.I. high schoolers get hands-on trades training, thanks to new partnership

An Island high school teacher says her brand new "Intro to Trades" course is already a huge success with students — thanks to a partnership with the P.E.I. Construction Association.

P.E.I. Construction Association offered its workshop and staff to help students learn

The P.E.I. Construction Association has offered up its workshop to students at Immanuel Christian School who have signed up for the high school's "Intro to Trades" course. (CBC/Jessica Doria-Brown)

An Island high school teacher says her brand new "Intro to Trades" course is already a huge success with students — thanks to a partnership with the P.E.I. Construction Association.

April Jorritsma launched the course last fall with students working on projects in the yard at Immanuel Christian School in Charlottetown. But when the weather started to get cold and wet, and with space limited inside the school, Jorritsma needed to find another space for her students.

That's when the construction association offered up it's workshop, as well as professional carpenter Bernie Dykerman to help students with their projects. 

"It's been great," said Jorritsma. 

"We've just been able to come here and use all of the tools and Bernie's expertise. They also had an electrician come in as well one time and teach them some wiring. So it's just great for the students to be able to be here and have their hands on stuff and actually using real tools." 

High school teacher April Jorritsma launched the course last fall. (CBC/Jessica Doria-Brown)

The school is covering the cost of the supplies, but use of the facility, along with staff expertise, is being offered free of charge by the association.

Jorritsma said it's been an exceptional way for her students to learn about building, and they're excited to get into the workshop each week. 

"They're loving it," said Jorritsma. "We had a few Friday cancellations from weather, then March break, and they were just totally bummed out when we couldn't come here."

Hands-on experience

For students, working in the shop has meant access to equipment and tools that give a real feel for the process involved in building. 

"One of my highlights has definitely been learning how to use the nail gun," said student Ava Frew. "I love nail guns. It was a really cool experience." 

Frew said she's thought about a career in the trades, but with this experience she's seriously considering it.

"It's definitely a really nice experience to be able to be here. At school we couldn't be as active. But here, we're really learning hands-on things and it's just a really great experience for our class," said Frew.

Ava Frew says she's now seriously considering a career in the trades. (CBC/Jessica Doria-Brown)

Classmate Owen Dykstra said there aren't always the same opportunities for students from a small school, and without this partnership with the P.E.I. Construction Association, it would be harder to know whether or not to give the trades a try. 

"It definitely gives you a feel for different experiences and it opens up a bunch of doors," he said. 

For the association, the partnership with Immanuel Christian School is just one part of making skill development in the trades more accessible. General Manager Sam Sanderson says the workshop has been operational for about a year, and welcomes any groups looking to learn. 

"This has been an amazing facility and we're only a year into it," said Sanderson, who already has plans to expand offerings at the workshop. "There's a wide group of people out there that would benefit from the opportunity to get some hands-on learning and explore a career in the trades. We have the availability to give them some basic hands-on learning and help them become employable, and the possibilities are endless after that." 

Owen Dykstra says the hands-on experience the course offers 'opens up a bunch of doors' for fellow students. (CBC/Jessica Doria-Brown)

He said it's especially valuable to connect with students at the high school level, to help them see the opportunities in trades. 

"They're putting their hands on real tools and real projects. They're going to have something to take home with them at the end of the day, and that's going to be applicable no matter what career they decide." 

Jorritsma said her students have already worked on tables, chairs, and now shelving. 

She said it's been remarkable to watch how quickly they're learning and picking up new skills. 

"It's just the most rewarding thing of all, being able to see them gain comfort and proficiency in using all the tools, and just growing as a person," said Jorritsma. 


Jessica Doria-Brown


Jessica Doria-Brown is a videojournalist with CBC in P.E.I. Originally from Toronto, Jessica has worked for CBC in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Ontario.


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