February 26th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 8
Youth and the Work World wants
to keep kids in the Pass
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
stock photo
Pass Herald Reporter
When Joanne Wilson’s stepson left for college in Lethbridge, she doubted he would be coming back to the Crowsnest Pass.

“That’s the way it is with a lot of parents here,” says Wilson. “Other than at Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years and long weekends a lot of families don’t get to see their kids.”

According to Wilson, the Crowsnest Pass is having trouble hanging onto its young people because limited work opportunities are forcing young people to live elsewhere.

On the evening of Feb. 6, Wilson and about two-dozen educators, businesspeople, policymakers and students met at Crowsnest Consolidated High School (CCHS) for the third meeting of Youth and the Work World.

The group was formed to help youth in the Crowsnest Pass reach employability, maturity and, hopefully, to keep them in the community. To this end, it is trying to connect young people with professionals who share their interests.

“We want to tell kids that there are opportunities here,” says Duane Pike, apprenticeship consultant with the department of Enterprise and Advanced Education.

RAP success stories

One program that is getting youth employed in the Pass is the Registered Apprentice Program (RAP). Students and tradespeople associated with the program were in attendance.

John Taylor, off campus coordinator with the Livingston Range School Division says the RAP program allows high school students to get authentic work experience while attaining up to 40 high school credits.

“The RAP program is set up to allow students in high school to be involved in any one of the 50 trades recognized in the province,” says Taylor.

“I wasn’t the biggest academic person in school,” says Mat Pounder, 18.

Pounder apprenticed for Randy Rinaldi, of Rinaldi Welding, through RAP as a 16-year-old and seems to have found his calling.

Principal Wes Wescott remembers how Pounder would come into school still in his work clothes, his hands blackened from welding and happy in the knowledge his degree was leading him to the workforce.

“When [Rinaldi] took him on as an apprentice, he switched his outlook here at [school],” says Wescott

“It made me want to be a welder and fabricator because I want to be able to do the same things that the journeymen do. And I definitely learned a lot of things in the last few years,” says Pounder. “The RAP program definitely helped me a lot. Without the program I don’t know if I would have graduated, with all the credits I got from it.”

Rinaldi says that in the 15 years he has been operating out of Frank, he has always employed students. Four of the apprentices he trained through the RAP program have gone on to become journeymen.

“I hate to say it, but it’s hard to take someone that’s 50 years old and teach them the same way you teach someone that’s 16,” says Rinaldi.

According to Rinaldi, employing students has its challenges. He says it’s difficult to insure students and as a result their experiences are limited to working in and around his workshop. He says Pounder is not allowed to drive company vehicles, even though he’s a second year apprentice.

“We get penalized because [we] hire students,” says Rinaldi.

“We need assistance from higher places to help us with this. We’re more than willing to do it. I’m sure every business in town would love to train somebody, and keep them,” he explains.

Richard Valley, sole proprietor of Blair Renovations has been participating in the RAP program for three years and is currently apprenticing Raven Baxter, 16. He says he is having great success with the program and wishes more employers would get involved.

“For myself, when I was in the school program that we had then, I saw lots of kids fall through the cracks, I was pretty close to that too. So, I like the idea that things are changing.”

Taylor says he’s aiming for 10 to 12 students to join RAP this year. He currently has six students involved, with three more on the way.

Pike says the apprenticeship program is extremely affordable. Each year the province offers 900 RAP scholarships, each valued at a $1000, and that the federal government also offers financial support.

Youth in the Work World initiatives to look out for

After hearing about the RAP program, the attendees formed groups for a roundtable discussion to come up with actions the group should pursue in the near future.

As a result the group is sending an open letter to employers, to continue communication between agencies and to create an action plan to make their intentions known to partners in the community.

One attendee, Charlie Hrabec, of Cervus Equipment says the group should make more connections with employers outside trades because trade centric initiatives might be excluding women.

Taylor agrees, saying a lot of students want to get into healthcare, business and the arts and that the group should be connecting with people in those industries.

Wilson says her stepson met his future wife in Lethbridge and ended up moving back to the Pass.

“Deep down in his heart he missed Crowsnest Pass and the small town atmosphere,” she says.

The next meeting of Youth in the Work World is scheduled for April 24.

February 26th ~ Vol. 84 No. 8
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