Pilot program focuses on trades for Aboriginal students

The Sunchild Pre-Trades Exploration Pilot Program at Red Deer College has come to a close and is being deemed a success.

The program gave Aboriginal students from Sunchild First Nations the chance to explore trades opportunities during the three-week program.

The pilot program received $150,000 in funding and saw 12 high school students and 10 adults from the Sunchild First Nations community take part.

Brad Donaldson, vice president academic, said it has been a pleasure to have the students come to RDC to learn about careers.

“We look forward to being able to continue this down the road. What’s important to us is being able to provide opportunities and pathways and our experience with Sunchild on this project has been great.”

This is the first year for the program and Donaldson said it’s been successful in terms of opening up the participants’ minds to their potential and the opportunities available at RDC.

“This is just a sampler pack and a chance to look at a number of different trades including the key ones that are driving Alberta’s economy,” said Donaldson.

He added RDC does offer similar programs to other sectors but this one was designed specifically to work with the Sunchild group to give their members the chance to see what’s available.

Richard Mackay, a participant in the program, said he has enjoyed staying in the residence on campus and has enjoyed learning the different trades.

“We’ve been doing ceramics in the evenings, millwright during the day and electrical, some instrumentation tech and heavy equipment tech. We’ve been so busy,” said Mackay.

Mackay said he’s had a blast with the exposure to the amount of trades at RDC.

“I’m not really sure where to go with it but I’m pretty sure I’ll make a big step somewhere.”

Mackay said he feels the program is a great introduction to the trades and he feels it would be beneficial to younger people.

“The program would give them a better idea of where to go right after high school and give them hands-on experience,” said Mackay.

Alison Nestorvich, program coordinator with continuing education, said she feels it has been a privilege to work with Sunchild to put this project together.

“It’s been a real rollercoaster but a fun adventure too. I have definitely gained a lot of insight and knowledge about a lot of great things going on at Sunchild at the school,” said Nestorvich.

She said they found out in February that they could go ahead with the program and started out in Sunchild March 12. By May Red Deer College was hosting the high school students to learn about the College and the trades.

Nestorvich said she has heard that students want more time in the program to explore different programs at RDC.

“It is a possibility for us to expand if we get sponsorship. The opportunities are endless.”