MacKenzie Joyce, a Grade 12 student at Richmond Academy shared her experiences as an enrolled student in the skilled trades program. Going into the program she thought she wanted to pursue carpentry but after a few classes, she found a passion with welding and now has her eyes set on a career in underwater-welding.

LOUISDALE: For MacKenzie Joyce, the skilled trades program offered at Richmond Education Centre/Academy opened the her eyes to a completely different career.

The Grade 12 student found a passion for the welding field, after what she admits to being somewhat of a rough start – as she didn’t step foot into the welding booth for nearly two-days after trying it for the first time.

“Ever since I started the manufacturing trades course, it’s given me the opportunity to discover new options,” she said. “And now I’m looking at underwater welding instead of carpentry.”

Photos by Drake Lowthers — Gary Sampson, the Red Seal certified instructor for the skilled trades program at Richmond Academy, said he is extremely proud of the first cohort of students that he’s had the privilege of guiding.

Students wearing blue coveralls and orange safety vests with yellow hard hats, along with distinguished guests, gathered in the skilled trades centre on June 5 for the official grand opening of the building.

Richmond Academy offers three types of courses through the suite of skilled trades courses; there is a skilled trades course offered at the Grade 10 level, which is an entry level course including different aspects of skilled trades without getting too heavily involved in any one particular; then there are construction trades 11 and manufacturing trades 11.

“It’s amazing, we are so fortunate. We are one of three high schools throughout our region to have a skilled trades facility and the tools and equipment that go along with it,” Jason MacLean, Richmond Academy’s principal told The Reporter. “And to have our own stand-alone building that’s brand new and fully equipped, students will [receive] hands-on experience and typically that will spark an interest for them to keep on going with their studies.”

MacLean said the biggest benefit for a student taking the skilled trades course is receiving the actual hands-on experience from their Red Seal certified instructor, Gary Sampson. Enrolled students can earn up to 500 pre-apprenticeship hours while they’re still in high school.

As principal, MacLean said he sees firsthand the differences in the way students learn, there is traditional-style learning with pencil and paper, sitting in class listening to instructions, but there are a lot of students that learn hands-on.

“So for them to find that piece, and be involved in that and work with the tools that we have and obtain the skills that they can throughout helps with engagement and offers another level of education here at the school.”

The Principal of Richmond Academy, Jason MacLean, highlighted the school’s new skilled trades centre during the official grand opening June 5. Richmond Academy is one of three schools in the region to have a skilled trades facility, the other two are at Dalbrae Academy and Dr. John Hugh Gillis.

Out of the 278 students in Grades 10 to 12 at the high school, 56 students have passed through the skilled trades program since the building became usable earlier this school year, translating to 20 per cent of eligible students.

The Strait regional centre for education has been able to establish two other skilled trades centres, one at Dalbrae Academy in Mabou, and the other at Dr. John Hugh Gillis in Antigonish.

MacLean said the skilled trades centre is a state-of-the-art facility offering state-of-the-art education, and opportunities for students to set themselves up to write their own ticket.

“MacKenzie had no idea what she wanted to do coming into this, after gaining some of those skills, and after trying welding, her goal is set on under-water welding so for her to have that mind set and have some of those skills going into graduating from high school and knowing what she wants to do is a huge thing to have under your belt.”

Don Hill, career pathways consultant with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, said students in the skilled trades course can earn up to 500 pre-apprenticeship hours while they’re still in high school, so if they decide to go into a skilled trade, they have a bit of a head start.