Trades program brings smokehouses to Tseshaht community

Port Alberni, BC

An innovative trades education program is bringing much-needed infrastructure to Nuu-chah-nulth communities, while delivering trades skills to students.

The Trades Sampler Course, operating out of Port Alberni, is a partnership with the Nuu-chah-nulth Education Training Program, North Island College and the Industry Training Authority. It works like a launching pad, bringing together people interested in learning trades, who work on community projects to build their work skills. If the work appeals to them, they may enrol in North Island College’s carpentry program to further enhance their training and skills.

This program brings together just over a dozen Nuu-chah-nulth learners who take in-class training along with hands-on experience in carpentry, plumbing and electrical. It is already in progress and will run until Feb. 17, 2022.

“We hope that the students develop a passion for trades and move forward into taking technical training,” writes ITA.

The students are working in space rented from the Port Alberni Shelter Society, on lower Third Avenue.

Bob Haugen, director of Continuing Education and Contract Training for North Island College, said Carpentry Pathway students need projects to work on. In this case, the project has partnered with Tseshaht First Nation, who provided some of the funding to have three community smokehouses built.

“This program is designed to get students introduced to the trades,” said Haugen.

In the sampler course, students spend one week learning plumbing, another week on electrical training and the rest on carpentry.

Students that develop a passion for the trades can then go onto registering for a course, like Level 1 Carpentry at North Island College.

Haugen said similar projects were carried out in the past in Kyuquot and Gold River. Haugen said past trades sampler projects saw students construct storage facilities for Kyuquot’s fire fighting equipment. In Gold River, students built a community smokehouse near their house of gathering.

In this year’s Trades Sampler course, student will have the option of joining a local contractor as an apprentice after finishing the sampler course.

“This is a fantastic opportunity,” said Haugen, adding that this arrangement will allow the students to have a paying job while they get hands-on learning.

By taking part in the construction of much-needed facilities in their home communities, Haugen says the students find extra motivation because the projects are meaningful to them. In fact, student Cody Nielsen-Robinson said he would love to see similar smokehouses built for Haahuupayak School, which is located on the Tseshaht First Nation.

Haugen mentioned that another project in Anacla brought students together with Huu-ay-aht’s red seal carpenter Charlie Clappis, who teaches carpentry. Together, the class renovated an old, abandoned house, making it liveable again.

Haugen says 18 students signed up for the sampler course and about a dozen of those remain active.

The students meet in a leased space next to the Overdose Prevention Site. A portion of the space is set up for classroom learning while the back of the room is being used for construction.

Haugen says the components of the smokehouses will be built at the space on Third Avenue. Later this spring a foundation will be laid in an area behind Maht Mahs. The students will then assemble the smokehouses at their permanent home.

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