News & Events

All hands on! 500 middle school students discover the trades

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Queensborough Middle School students take in metalwork activities at New Westminster Secondary School…

Gaining insight into real world skills…

January 26, 2018 – There were hammers, drills, electrical circuits and fire in a roaring forge at New Westminster Secondary School – and some 500 middle school students were part of it.

For the first time ever, grade 8 students from all three New Westminster middle schools  – École Glenbrook, Fraser River and Queensborough  – were invited for a three-day Discover the Trades event at NWSS.

There, they got the chance to see what it’s like to try their hands at metalwork, drafting, carpentry and electronics.

The idea is to increase awareness of what’s possible in their high school education, said New West Secondary Career Programs Coordinator Karen Crosby. The thee-day special event was supported by a $4,000 grant from the Industry Training Authority.

Queensborough Middle School teacher Sian Smith said the event was a great help as students begin the process of choosing what courses they want to take in high school.

Without the practical exposure they gained this week through the Discover the Trades tour, they often end up “choosing in the dark,” she said.

High school students shared examples of their course work with the middle school visitors. Metalwork student Tony Jiang, for instance, displayed examples of jewelry design using copper enamelling, recycled material, and glass beads – noting with a laugh the opportunity for students to “play with fire’ in the process.

Former students who graduated with trades skills were also on site to share their stories with the grade 8 students.

For Grady Pinvidic — now 21 and a certified plumber working with a company while also running his own business  —  the trades in his high school years were a natural fit and have opened doors for him since he graduated.

‘I’ve always liked using my hands. At NWSS,  I took courses like tech ed, woodworking, and home ec and textiles: I was good at sewing!”

He also learned skills in welding, brazing, robotics and electrical — eventually finding his calling in piping and plumbing. From there, he gained work experience on job sites as an apprentice –  getting both paid on-the-job training and in-school training.

After graduating, Pinvidic said he got three interviews and three jobs offers right off the bat. As a Red Seal tradesperson, he’s now achieved the Canadian standard of excellence in a skilled trade.

“There’s a stigma against the trades but there is a whole younger generation coming up now.  I’ve had a chance to work in residential and commercial plumbing all over the Lower Mainland, I’ve worked on Cypress Mountain and on a cabin on an island. As a Red Seal, I can work in other countries, like Australia.  I have the satisfaction of being able to use my hands every day.  I’m proud of my work.”

And if he decides to pursue further education, he notes he’s in a position to be able to pay for it.


Two Queensborough Middle School  students try their hands at forging red hot steel rods that have been heated in a forge at 1000 degrees Celsius….

Opening doors to a broader experience…

Crosby noted that choosing between the trades or an academic path is no longer an either/or option. She said students often gain practical skills and real world experience through the trades that can enhance their academic credentials and their resumes. “It’s really much better viewed as an add-on,” she said.

As NWSS teacher Chef Meghan Dehghan explains, students who try their hands at culinary arts find that doors can open for other fields of study that may interest them – as food scientists, as dietitians, nurses, or nutritionists.

And increasingly, women are supported in entering trades as a viable option for their own future careers.

This week’s opportunity for middle school students was more of a meaningful experience than the typical tour of the high school in the past. In fact, two Queensborough Middle School students got the chance in teacher Dan Lee’s metalwork class to try their hands at forging.

To the cheers of their peers, they each wielded a hammer to shape steel rods that had been heated in a roaring forge that had reached a temperature of about 1000 degrees Celsius. Forging is used to change the shape of metal while in a solid state – and creates a stronger product after the grain flows of the steel have been altered.

For both students, it was a quick and dramatic introduction to a hands-on approach to learning.For other students, the chance to see how metal working skills can lead to decorative arts like jewelry design while “playing with fire” was just as illuminating.


Matching what you love with what the world needs…

As Queensborough teacher Dan Mills noted, when he was a kid at school the options were home ec and shop courses.  For students not keen on sitting in a chair all day, the programs now on offer  can boost many students’ self-esteem. “It’s practical,” he said. “It’s real life.”

In metal work, the Discover the Trades high school event demonstrated how students at NWSS can make anything from tools to jewelry. In the process, they learn skills such as cutting, filing, sanding and buffing while using tools like metal lathes and oxyacetylene gas welding.

In carpentry, high school students learn to use hand tools, portable power tools and woodworking machines, gaining skills in everything from making wooden bowls to basic residential construction techniques. There’s also a “Girls Only Woodwork” class in Technology 10 designed to provide a comfortable environment in which to learn.

In electronics, students learn the basics of programming, electrical circuits and robotics, gaining exposure to the engineering design process, as well as to the fundamentals of mechanical, electrical, and software engineering and electronics.

And in drafting and design, students learn to make architecture and mechanical drawings using a variety of software and skills – for instance, in 3D printing. They can gain exposure to model making, interior design, mechanical engineering, construction trades, and basic coding.

In most of the programs, work experience is embedded.

“Students often go into university without quite knowing what they want do do,” noted Crosby. “And a high percentage of students don’t end up in work related to their degree.”

“I’m a practical person,” she said, “and I think it helps to match what you love with what the world needs.”









Metal work includes developing skills in decorative arts such as jewelry making…