Thompson Rivers University

Indigenous students hammer out careers on historic project

July 21, 2022

Students from the School of Trades and Technology’s Trades Sampler Program replace the roof of a home near Xatśūll Heritage Village north of Williams Lake.

Over the past 12 weeks, a group of Indigenous students have rolled up their sleeves exploring the trades. Enrolled in the School of Trades and Technology’s Trades Sampler Program at Thompson Rivers University’s (TRU) Williams Lake campus, the students are getting practical trades experience while revitalizing the historic Soda Creek Emporium near Xatśūll Heritage Village north of Williams Lake.

Designed for students without trades experience, the three-month sampler program provides skills training in three construction-related trade: carpentry, plumbing and electrical.

“Students are also part of the Residential Building Maintenance Worker program, supported by the Industry Training Authority, which leads and manages BC’s trades training and apprenticeship system,” says Heather Hamilton, associate director of Community Education and Workforce Training at the School of Trades and Technology. “So, they’re being introduced to drywall, trim, siding and roofing while renovating houses in the area.”

The School of Trades has run more than 30 sampler programs in Indigenous communities over the years. “Typically, we run eight to ten programs every year, each of which develops much-needed hands-on skills and provides employment opportunities for Indigenous students,” she adds.

Future in trades

In Williams Lake, Continuing Studies Community Co-ordinator Alison Sutherland-Mann talked with four students – Basil Plant, Justin Hutchinson, Tye Jeff and Denny Sill – as they near completion of the program.

“They said the experience has been very positive, and they’ve learned many things,” says Sutherland-Mann.

“They’ve been undertaking renovations, so taking everything apart and putting it all back together, only better, plus doing siding and roofing. They all agree that this is a good fit for them. They enjoy the work and say they will continue to work in the trades.”

Sutherland-Mann says the students will likely be hired by contractors from Xatśūll.

The multi-million-dollar Xatśūll First Nation project, which began on May 2, includes the rejuvenation of the emporium’s once-thriving restaurant and the development of a gas station, convenience store, museum and electric vehicle charging stations at the site. It is expected to take a year to complete.

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