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College of BC Building Trades opens its (virtual) doors as hub for B.C. schools

‘One-stop shop to learn about career opportunities in the unionized construction industry’
A glazier apprentices at the Finishing Trades Institute of B.C. in Surrey. Glazier is one of the most in-demand trades. (Photo: BC Building Trades)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was first published April 21 in the Surrey Now-Leader’s 16-page special section on education in the trades. Click here to see the full e-edition.


By David Hogben, Contributor

A career in the skilled trades is just a click away, thanks to the new College of the B.C. Building Trades.

The college is actually a virtual hub and online-learning module for more than 15 trade-specific schools across B.C.

The schools and campus are the union trades trainers of the B.C. Building Trades, which represents tradespeople ranging from electricians and heavy equipment operators to pile drivers, carpenters, bricklayers and sheet metal workers.

Rather than browsing endlessly on different websites, prospective students can find all the information they need at They can listen to student testimonials, watch videos of tradespeople working, learn about eligibility requirements, check out salary and job prospects, take practice tests and connect directly with their school of choice to register.

Tuition at most schools is low- to no-cost, and students are also eligible for bursaries and scholarships along the way.

“This is a one-stop shop to learn about career opportunities in the unionized construction industry, get connected to learning resources to support them in their pre-apprenticeship, join a union and get access to resources to help them through their apprenticeship program,” said Kyle Downie, CEO of SkillPlan, which developed the college’s learning management system.

The site features a section called Explore Our Trades, where prospective tradespeople can learn about the many opportunities that exist with unions in the construction trades.

SEE ALSO: B.C. mandatory trades certification ‘phased in’ starting this year

“This is an area where people can click on and learn about the variety of careers that they can have,” Downie said.

“They can learn about, for example, a career as an electrician or a carpenter, or a crane operator. Then they can go deeper into this page to watch videos, learn about the projected growth for career opportunities, how much money they will be making, the key skills and attributes they will need, the requirements to enter the trade, and so forth.”

A lot of young people have trouble getting information about the trades from teachers and career counsellors, said Downie, partly because many in the education system don’t fully understand what careers are available, what qualifications are necessary and what wages and benefits they can expect.

“So, they can go to the Explore Our Trades section to learn about all these opportunities,” Downie said.

Then, they can make informed decisions about the trade they might want to pursue.

“From there, you can click on the Build Your Skills section, which takes you to the learning centre where there are all different learning tools to help support you in figuring out if you have the aptitude you need, then gain the skills needed to get into that particular trade.”

A lot of potential tradespeople won’t have all the education they need to immediately launch a career. For example, they might need to make up some courses, such as math, reading or science. The site then shows them how they can get their missing prerequisites.

“From there, they can actually find resources that are trade-specific to help address those gaps,” Downie said.

Video tutorials are also available to help students through areas of challenge. More than 2,000 tutorial videos are being created that students can access to support them on their journey.

“Eventually you will be able to watch a video of an instructor teaching trigonometry, for example. You will be able to learn that concept and do practice exercises,” explained Downie.

The journey continues even after a student has started an apprenticeship program as they can continue to come back to this learning centre for access to apprenticeship-specific tutoring resources to help them get through challenging areas in technical training.

Click here to learn more online.

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