Linden Mitchell, left, and Pierce Southcott, are in the inaugural refrigeration mechanic program with SD42. (Contributed)

Refrigeration mechanic program new for SD42

After the 19 week program, students receive 520 work-based training hours

A new trades program teaching students the skills of refrigeration mechanics is now being offered in the school district.

The program teaches students how to make, install, repair and service residential, commercial and industrial cooling and heating systems and is run in partnership with the Joint Apprenticeship Refrigeration Training School.

Topics covered include safety, hand and power tools; trade math; refrigerant handling certification; maintenance procedures; heat pumps and roof top units; electrical theory and application; level 1 industrial first aid; transport of dangerous goods certificate; cutting, brazing and bending pipe; refrigeration cycles and components; single and three phase motors and aerial lift certification.

So far there are three students from SD42 in the program that runs 19 weeks with students receiving 520 work-based training hours at the end of it.

“This one is unique because it is not run through a college but a union training shop. It’s a little bit of a different technical provider,” explained Steve Wiebe, principal of the district alternate, partnerships and work experience programs with the school district.

“The reason why we chose to go this route, it’s a different model then we’ve done in the past. Essentially we’re an island, Maple Ridge. We are surrounded by bridges and water. We don’t have a post training institution itself in our city like a Kwantlen or a Douglas or whatnot,” said Brad Dingler, district partnerships and trades programs and SSA co-ordinator with SD42.

”We do all our training in house which means that we offer programs that are 16 seat programs,” he continued adding that in order to differentiate their trades portfolio, they thought they would reach out to training institutions like JARTS and offer a limited number of seats.

“We can now offer more training opportunities. Maybe fewer seats, but more opportunities. It’s a win win for the kids in the district,” said Dingler.

Currently they are in partnership with the Langley and Coquitlam school districts offering two seats each. However this term the other districts couldn’t fill their seats, so they took an extra seat to offer three.

Refrigeration is a trade akin to electrical that is academically intensive.

“That’s why we encourage at this level our Grade 12’s would be the bare minimum entrance,” explained Dingler adding that Grade 13’s are also welcome since technically they are still a non-grad until they reach the age of 19.

Dingler says there is a demand for all trades right now, but the issue is filling the capacity for their seats, whether it be SD42, British Columbia Institute of Technology or Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

The school district offers nine programs, eight which have 16 seats available.

“That’s unprecedented for the school district to fill that many seats,” he said.

Across the board, though, Dingler says, trades enrollment are lower than they have been in a while, so they believe the best way to encourage more students to enter the trades is to offer more diversity.

Currently SD42 offers auto service technician, carpentry level 1, culinary arts, electrician level 1 apprenticeship, hairstylist program, horticulture program, masonry, metal fabricator and plumbing apprenticeship.

They also partner with the Roofing Contractors Association of B.C. for a three day roofing program where participants learn about industrial, commercial roofing with jobs starting at $15 to $17 an hour.

“They are crying out for roofers and it’s not a bad paying job,” said Wiebe.

Refrigeration mechanic was a good fit because JARTS is located in Surrey and a typical trades-person can make anywhere from $30 to $50 an hour.

“It’s well suited in the Lower Mainland to meet the restaurant industries. It is a trade you can work local and come home at night,” said Dingler.

The B.C. government is celebrating the fourth annual Apprenticeship Recognition Week from Nov. 4 to Nov. 10.

It is anticipated that there will be 71,000 job openings in the skilled trades over the next decade that will need to be filled.

The province is home to more than 100 trades, 49 of which are nationally recognized Red Seal programs.

The Industry Training Authority expects to fund more than 26,000 apprenticeship and foundation training seats this year at public and private institutions.

There are more than 35,000 adult apprentices, more than 5,000 youth program participatns and more than 4,000 foundation students in the province.

The next intake for the refrigeration mechanic program will be Sept. 2019.

Wiebe and Dingler want to encourage any students in Grades 11 or 12 or parents with a son or daughter in either Grade who are interested in learning more about the trades to give them a call at 604-626-1176 or 604-318-9792.

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