RDC pilot program gives teachers skills to share

Brian Schneider is learning extensive carpentry skills so he can give back to high school students in a bigger way.

Brian Schneider is learning extensive carpentry skills so he can give back to high school students in a bigger way.

The Calgary teacher of 15 years is taking the journeyman program being offered through Red Deer College. It’s a pilot program that began last July.

Schneider is among the 11 shop teachers who will be in the Teacher Skills Enhancement-Carpentry Certificate program until June. Participants will receive 1,360 hours of woodworking and carpentry experience in the field.

Schneider is working for Red Deer’s Riser Homes at a project in Blackfalds, where he was learning more about ICF (insulated concrete forms) foundations. He’s been with the home builder for almost two months.

When he’s finished this program, he’ll have a lot to offer to students. He’ll be able to teach them theory required before they get hired as a first-year carpentry apprentice after graduating from school.

He’s been teaching junior high school but plans to teach high school with the Calgary Board of Education once he finishes this RDC program.

“I’m a firm believer in the trades,” said Schneider. “The kids can come out of Grade 12 ready with an apprenticeship program. They’re already ahead of the game.”

Schneider said he knows this program has been adopted elsewhere and it works. His brother’s son graduated from Grade 12 in Vernon, B.C., where he completed his first year of plumbing training. He immediately got a job as a first-year apprentice, said Schneider.

“I think this (RDC) program is very timely,” he said. “I’m hoping to get my journeyman ticket where I can actually sign off on the kids’ theory. You need a journeyman to sign off on it, so they actually get credit for it.”

Students must have an education degree to qualify and they are chosen by their school district, since they continue to pay them through the one year they are off.

“Several years ago, Alberta Education added to the high school curriculum under (Career and Technology Studies),” said Jim Thomson, carpentry instructor at Red Deer College.

The department added first-year technical training for five trades — hairstyling, cooking, welding, automotives and carpentry.

Essentially, people have to be teachers and journeypersons as well.

The 11 carpentry teachers are from across Alberta — from Calgary to High Prairie.

These teachers will have a huge impact once they graduate from the program, said Thomson.

Students now have the ability to get their first-year apprenticeship by the time they leave high school. In carpentry, it’s a four-year apprenticeship.

The teachers will be done by the end of June 2013. They will receive a certificate from RDC.

“Some of the teachers have never taught shop before,” said Thomson. “Most of them have a commitment that they have to go back to that school board to teach for a period of time.”

Thomson said he anticipates that some will get better positions because they will be so knowledgeable compared to other shop teachers.

“It’s my understanding that Alberta Education is looking to run this pilot a second year and make sure it’s working,” he said.

Red Deer College, along with University of Alberta, Apprenticeship and Industry Training and Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, developed the program in collaboration with Alberta Education.

The province is funding the program.

Alberta Education spokesman Tim Chamberlin said there are no plans to expand the program beyond RDC, but it will continue for a second year at the college. Applications for next July’s intake are available until Oct. 31.

For more information, go to http://www.education.alberta.ca/admin/workforce.aspx.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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