Students invited to ‘give trades a try’

University of Fraser Valley hosted Try a Trade and the regional Skills B.C. competitions on campus on March 3.

UFV Welding Foundation student Harrison Floyd (right) guides a visiting high school student as he practices welding during Try a Trade on March 3.

UFV Welding Foundation student Harrison Floyd (right) guides a visiting high school student as he practices welding during Try a Trade on March 3.

UFV’s Trades and Technology Centre likely has hundreds of eager new recruits as of March 3.

They hosted the annual Try a Trade event, as well as the Regional Skills B.C. Competitions.

More than 1,200 middle school students from Langley to Hope rolled up in buses and poured into the university to participate in hands-on demonstrations across a variety of trades.

The young boys and girls rewired a basic circuit to turn on a light, they snapped on a mask and tried auto-body airbrushing, and they held a steady hand in the welding simulators.

“The idea is to get the middle school students in and exposed to some of the trades out there,” said Associate Dean of the Faculty of Applied and Technical Studies Rolf Arnold.

Rather than simply watching as UFV students showed them how it’s done, the visiting youth were able to take matters into their own hands.

“They need to play with it to see if they like it or not,” Arnold added as he lead a tour of the various facilities.

While Try a Trade demos took place in robotics, carpentry, automotive, hairstyling and other areas, UFV was also hosting the Skills Canada B.C. competition for the Upper Fraser Valley region, one of 13 competitions across the province.

As young visitors manoeuvred through the route, interacting with UFV trades students and building their own souvenirs along the way, the ongoing competitions provided plenty of entertainment.

More than 50 high school students simultaneously competed for the top spot in nine different competitions across the campus. Each group had a three-hour period to build, repair, design or craft with as much accuracy, finesse and skill as possible.

“The idea of blending the regional skills competition and all of the interactive school tours and activities is Rolf’s idea,” said John English, Dean of the Trades and Technology Centre.

“It’s been recognized as a provincial best practice,” he added, and has been picked up by other participating regions.

Automotive students worked on engines and brakes, carpenters framed up small structures, joinery students built elegant benches, and culinary students cooked up seafood chowder and pork tenderloin in the campus kitchen. Upstairs, competing animators and architects raced to create intricate designs and blueprints in the computer labs.

Judges carefully assessed their handiwork in the afternoon before awarding the medals. Top students in each category will advance to the provincial competitions in Abbotsford on April 13.

Elementary students had work to do as well, taking part in three junior skills competitions.

Grade 5 students built creative bridges with dry spaghetti and glue, which were then weight-tested to see how much they could handle before breaking.

In the automotive area, the youngsters put their handmade gravity cars to the test.  “Our wheels fell off,” one Grade 6 student laughed as he picked up the painted block of wood at the bottom of the silver, two-lane track.

Down the hall, junior robotics competitors built and programmed lightweight robotic devices.

“They’re thinking like engineers,” said Dereck Dirom as he provided guidance to the group. “They test [the robots], evaluate, and go back to tweak the program,” he explained.

The immersive exposure that students gain from programs like Try a Trade or the Skills B.C. competitions are more than great learning experiences for youth in B.C. They promote the abundance of rewarding and in-demand careers in skilled trades and technology.

“They’re engaged. That’s what it’s all about,” Arnold said as he completed the tour. The students are learning in leaps and bounds and having fun doing it. The only problem, Arnold said, is that the day goes by in a flash.

Learn more about the competitions at skillscanada.bc.ca.