Coast Capital has donated $1 million to the Construction Foundation of British Columbia to help skilled trade workers achieve their Red Seal designation through a new free program.
“We’re here to celebrate a program that will further break down barriers standing in the way of Red Seal endorsement,” said Bob Armstrong, chair of Coast Capital’s board, at the program’s inaugural announcement on March 6 at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.
Through the donation, the foundation, a registered charity, will be operating its new Coast Capital Road to Red Seal program.
The program costs nothing to enrol in and is designed to help apprentices, or anyone working in the trades, receive their Red Seal designation by offering catered supports.
The Journal of Commerce sat down with Abigail Fulton, executive director of the Construction Foundation of British Columbia, to talk about why the program is needed.
“There’s a lot of individuals that end up in the trades because maybe schoolwork is not their thing and they may get advice that, ‘Well, maybe university is not for you,’” Fulton said.
“So, a lot of individuals gravitate towards the trades thinking, ‘I’m a hands on person and I want to go through a pathway that allows me to learn on the job.’”
And while the benefits of on-the-job learning are very real, completing a Red Seal can be a challenging academic affair.
“The problem is, or it could be, there is a portion of their training where they have to go to school and they have to pass exams. So, the challenges they may have experienced in school previously come back up,” she said.
Since the pandemic, the average Red Seal trade completion rate is less than 41 per cent in B.C.
This was telling at the BCIT announcement, where when asked who in the crowd was an apprentice, every single person who raised their hand was either a first or second year with none from year three or four present.
“That’s why we need this program,” Fulton said from the side of the stage.
The program sets apprentices up with one-on-one support and resources dedicated to determining the unique factors they face on the road to receiving their designation.
In a video played at the event, Red Seal carpenter Tanner Hunter spoke about the help he received from the foundation after a bad concussion and brain surgery for a tumour made prolonged studying difficult for him.
“Michelle (Anderlini, from the foundation) helped me get enrolled into a program to refresh everything. We went over different ways to study and what I need to focus on,” Hunter said.
“If Michelle wasn’t there to help me through it, I don’t think I would be a Red Seal carpenter to this day.”
Hunter’s story highlights the targeted and individual approach of the new program.
“They’re getting extra tutoring if that’s what they need. If they need special accommodations, if they have exam anxiety, there are ways to support that and alleviate that,” said Fulton.
“It’s really all about walking with the individual, understanding what kind of barriers they’re facing and making sure they get over those barriers so they can get through to Red Seal.”
But Fulton emphasized the program is not solely for active apprentices. She said tradespeople who have never tried to get their seal or who have tried and quit are highly encouraged to reach out.
“We can help you, give us a call. I mean, we’re limited only by the amount of money we can raise. So, this is a good start and I’m out there raising more money.”
Fulton highlighted the importance of the free program as compulsory Red Seal designation gets introduced to B.C. later this year for select trades.
With a lot of industry dialogue centering around the need for more skilled workers, Fulton said she was proud the new program was targeting a different demographic.
“There are a whole lot of folks working hard to recruit new people,” she said.
“But let’s help the ones that have raised their hands already and said, ‘I want to be in the trades.’ Let’s not lose them. Let’s get them through to completion.”
Fulton said the program will be a new mainstay for the organization and the importance of the skilled trades cannot be understated.
“I’m a huge believer in the system of apprenticeship and applied learning. I think every young person who goes to school should learn a trade, even if they go back to university or do something else later in life.
“Imagine if every young person had a trade under their belt when they left high school. I mean, we could build a whole new civilization.”