This coming spring break, a dozen Sunshine Coast students will have the opportunity to see what it’s like to be a firefighter.
In 2022, the Sunshine Coast School District No. 46 (SD46) is launching the new Junior Firefighters Training Program with the Sechelt Fire Department. For a week in March, 12 selected students will undergo training at the Sechelt Fire Hall as well as the fire training Centre on Mason Road.
“We think it's a great opportunity for young kids to explore a career in the fire service,” Steven Achterberg, the captain of fire inspection with the Sechelt Fire Department, said. “Sometimes it's a bit grandiose and maybe a little out of reach, but we want to kind of give kids an opportunity to experience what it's all about in this sort of crash course and in the field.”
Students will learn some basic first aid and firefighting skills and earn a work experience course credit.
“They'll experience a lot of teamwork, camaraderie… the intangibles in the fire service,” Achterberg said.
With fire departments on the Coast being dependent on volunteers, they hope this program will light a spark in the youth, who will perhaps volunteer when they come of age.
Cathy Gordon, the district career coordinator, got the idea for the program from a similar one offered in other school districts in B.C., including in Cowichan and Squamish. She hopes it will inspire the students to think of other careers or volunteer opportunities this training is suited for, such as becoming a paramedic, volunteering with Search and Rescue, fighting wildfires or a career in firefighting.
Part of it, she added, is “learning to give back to the community.”
Other fire departments on the Coast are willing to help facilitate the program, Achterberg said.
At a Dec. 8 school district board meeting, student trustee Matthew Douglas said he was in a class Gordon presented the program to.
“Everybody was buzzing,” he said, and thanked Gordon for the presentation.
Applications are due on Dec. 17. Students must be 16 or older to apply and in Grade 11 or 12.
Find more information and the application at career-programs.sd46.ca/applications. Gordon is available to answer any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Career programs expand
Another new program is joining the roster for students in 2022. In January, the Pro Cook program will start offering Level 2 to SD46 secondary students.
There are three trades training programs in SD46 and all offer post-secondary credits: cooking, carpentry and automotive service.
This year, all three of the training programs are full, district career coordinator Cathy Gordon said. Students can also sign up to become youth apprentices – a paid position that also earns school credits – once they turn 16. Several of the students in the automotive program have already been hired through their work placements, she said.
Two students in the Training in Trades program spoke at a Dec. 8 school board meeting, sharing their experiences with learning how to transition into a work environment with the help of the Pro Cook program. Hayden Fenn has become an apprentice at El Segundo and said that he hopes to become a Red Seal chef – a certification he wasn’t aware of before taking the program.
Both Fenn and Noah Ord said they are more familiar and comfortable with the basics and professional terms and what’s expected of them at work. Fenn said he went into the Pro Cook program with a lot of questions, and easily found the answers. Working with other people and having someone to go to with questions was helpful, the students said.
“If you have that option, definitely go for it,” Fenn said of the Training in Trades program.
“There’s always a need for the trades,” Trustee Pammila Ruth said after the students’ presentation.
Starting in September, SD46 is also launching an Early Childhood Care Education program for Grade 12 students that will offer dual credits and partner with the Capilano University Sechelt campus.
More information about these programs can be found at career-programs.sd46.bc.ca.