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Surrey high schoolers fast-track into apprenticeship roles

Warren Frey
Surrey high schoolers fast-track into apprenticeship roles

A union local and Surrey contractor are collaborating to get students leaving high school on a fast track into the construction industry.

B&B Contracting and LIUNA Local 1611 have formed a partnership to train 10 graduates from Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School in Surrey, B.C. The first cohort went through the training program this July.

LIUNA Local 1611 training plan administrator Tom Miller said as a union they were able to co-ordinate the training, but after consulting with SkilledTradesBC discovered funding was available if employment after the program was assured.

As a union, LIUNA couldn’t guarantee employment, Miller said, so he contacted colleagues in the industry, with B&B Contracting Group operations manager Peter Mihalech his first and only call.

“I said I had potentially a cohort of 12 kids coming out (of high school) at this time. They’ll have gone through apprenticeship, but they’re obviously going to be pretty green, and I was wondering if you’d be willing to help us with this and take some of them on. Peter said, ‘I’ll take all 12,’” Miller said.

Students took the four-week Level 1 Construction Craft Worker apprentice program at Training PLUS (Professional Labourers’ Union School) consisting of 120 hours of classroom and practical experience including site safety, the operation of construction equipment and tools, material handling, concrete and masonry, utilities and pipeline and roadwork.

“They come into the field with a little bit of knowledge and hopefully a lot of eagerness,” Mihalech said. “We all know there’s a labor shortage out there and getting good young people with a bit of experience and some education is good to have.”

Mihalech also noted while he and Miller experienced some pushback from family in their youth when they decided to enter the trades, attitudes seem to have shifted for a new generation of workers.

“Trades in the old days used to be a fall back, and now trades can be a great advantage. There’s just a ton of opportunity in our industry,” he said, adding the program’s focus on civil construction gives the students a more versatile set of skills.

“If you go to the British Columbia Institute of Technology or similar, those schools focus on carpentry, plumbing, electrical. This is a civil construction training and it’s a ton of opportunity in the industry and around the province right now,” Mihalech said.

Miller expressed optimism both about the current training initiative and the prospects for further iterations of the program next year as a new group of students graduate from high school.

“We ran this as a pilot because both sides didn’t really know what to expect. This has been a really good experience rom beginning to end, and we want to run it again,” he said. “Our goal is definitely to do it again in June (2024) because it works well with them graduating and coming immediately into it.”

Miller added he would love to expand the program and take on even more students if possible.

“If we can gain traction, and we have contractors like Peter and others who’ll take these students on, we’ll keep spitting them out there. Our only real issue is they all want it on the exact same timeline, immediately after graduation. I don’t have the capacity to run something like five cohorts at the same time, but that’s really the only issue,” he said.

Mihalech added more workers was a benefit not only for B&B Contracting but for the industry as a whole.

“We’re for any sort of innovative way to get new young labour into the industry and especially to our company on a selfish level, but we’re all for sponsoring these types of things. The labour shortage is here, not going away and as a way to grow our business we need that young, energetic workforce to continue to be successful in the industry,” he said.

For more with Miller and Mihalech on this issue, listen to The Construction Record podcast here.

Recent Comments (1 comments)

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Craig Image Craig

Actually the students were from all over the Surrey School District, as it was a District wide Program. I had 4 of my students from Guildford Park that were accepted into the program this year. They had a great experience and continue to do well working with B & B Contracting.


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