What can you do when your graduation rates sink below the provincial average?
In Northern communities like Lac La Biche, the temptation to take a good-paying job on the oil rigs comes early. As younger students watch their high school idols drop out, buy trucks, and gain independence, they start to think “Why not me?”
With 28.1% of its students not completing high school, the Northern Lights School District felt it needed to do something to prove to students that school was important and worthwhile.
Where does change come from?
Roger Nippard, Superintendent for the Northern Lights School District, wanted to:
Roger had seen mobile trade trailers before. Most were fully functional classrooms, housed in 53-foot mobile trailers and outfitted with all the equipment needed to teach a trade.
The unique ability of these classrooms to move from school to school makes them valuable to school districts like Northern Lights, whose schools are spread out and unable to afford shop classrooms of their own.
Roger asked Ruth Isley to gather the resources to purchase two of these trailers and the welding equipment required to teach students the trade. The Northern Lights School District then created a targeted program to introduce welding to students in Grades 7 through 12.
How do you go from building welders to building leaders?
The Northern Lights School District combined its own budget with the additional funds it had received from local organizations and community partners, like Imperial Oil, to secure welding equipment and two mobile classrooms.
The school district will use these tools to educate young welders who have the potential to become future leaders in their communities.
The Rural Alberta Development Fund provided the Mobile Trades Foundation Program with $1,056,750 to hire journeyman welder instructors and a dedicated program coordinator who could create and deliver an innovative curriculum.
What does progress look like?
In the Northern Lights School District, progress looks a lot like Cody Benson.
Cody had given up on school. Bored and disinterested, he no longer had the motivation to drag himself out of bed in the morning and join his peers in class.
He wasn’t motivated by the theoretical approach of most of his classes, so he pulled himself out of the system and began slogging through his studies at home.
But, when Cody heard about the Mobile Trades trailers coming to his school in Kikino Metis Settlement, he was re-engaged. Motivated by his grandfather’s “I had to walk five miles each way to get to school” story, Cody spent one morning hiking for over one hour through minus-25-degree weather to make it to his welding class.
Not only is he now acing his tests, attending his classes, and impressing his teachers, Cody is also mentoring younger students.
The Mobile Trades Foundation Program is a shining example of a Big Sky idea gone right.