October 29, 2012

Essential skills are a part of piping apprentice's curriculum

A private college in Delta, B.C. offers a unique program that integrates essential skills training into the curriculum for apprentices in the piping industry, which improves their chances of making a successful transition into the workplace.

“We teach apprentices basic skills as part of the regular delivery of the curriculum,” said Al Phillips, executive director of UA Piping Industry College of British Columbia (UAPICBC).

“We implemented the essential skills components, as explained in the National Occupational Analysis for each trade, into our programs and we found that the apprentices that we did give the training to were more successful when they went out to the employer.”

The UAPICBC provides certified pipe trades training to apprentices throughout the province, by offering courses in plumbing, sprinkler fitting, steam fitting, welding, petroleum installer/technician and green technologies.

In addition to the specific core skills associated with this trade, the school teaches basic skills that are required for life-long learning.

“Reading, writing and math, we do all that,” said Phillips.

“But, we also focus on thinking skills, which include: problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, conflict resolution, use of memory and finding information.”

Essential skills, include numeracy, working with others, document use and writing.

These skills are the part of the nine essential skills that have been identified by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Other essential skills used by apprentices are reading, oral communication, computer use, continuous learning and thinking skills.

“Our biggest challenge is finding appropriate candidates because a lot of people have not been in the workplace for a while or they have little experience in the workplace,” said Phillips.

“Our goal is to give people a hand up and not a hand out. That is why we have programs to remove barriers to entry in the occupation.”

As a result of the school’s focus on essential skills, UAPICBC receives funding from the federal government and is contracted by the Industry Training Authority (ITA) to deliver training programs to people who face barriers to employment in the construction trades, in particular women, Aboriginals and immigrants.

For example, Cathy Minty ran a home daycare to support her kids, but was forced to look for a job when she became her family’s sole breadwinner.

Starting a new career was a problem for her, as most careers required years of schooling, with limited chances for earning income during that time.

The solution to Minty’s problem was the Piping Opportunities for Women program offered by the school through the ITA Women in Trades Training initiative.

She started a career as a plumber, which provides on-the-job training and good wages.

“I now have so much more confidence,” said Minty.

“I’m a different person – I laugh more, I smile more and I’m conquering new challenges.”

The program provided Minty with a childcare subsidy and transportation allowance, and paid for her tuition, tools and work boots.

She is currently a first-year apprentice with Black & McDonald.

Minty hopes to one day become a Red Seal certified plumber.

“When I come home with my clothes covered in dirt and dust, I tell my kids what I did at work that day and they think it’s pretty awesome, she said.

“One of my daughters recently said ‘Maybe I’ll be a plumber, too.’ I thought that was pretty awesome.”

Funded through the Canada-British Columbia labour market agreement, eligible participants are provided financial supports in the form of paid tuition, childcare, transportation, meals and personal protective equipment.

This funding is also being used to assist immigrants, who would like to have their foreign credentials formally recognized in Canada. UAPICBC programs are fully designated by the Industry Training Authority.

About 75-150 students complete their apprenticeship training to become a journeyman each year.

The main campus for the school is located in Delta and was constructed in 2007. UAPICBC also has a branch campus located in Fort St John and have recently opened a satellite campus in Kitimat.

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