Are you a person who likes to work with wood and would like
to know more about jobs in the industry? Then you might try
the one of the WoodLINKS courses offered in several high schools
in British Columbia and at Garden Valley Collegiate in Winkler,
WoodLINKS works with schools and industry to develop wood
manufacturing programs in schools and to provide practical training
Although the program originates in B.C., there are now 11
students taking the new WoodLINKS course at GVC in Southern Manitoba.
The GVC students are all in the introductory course and while
it is not as yet clear how many will continue in the advanced
course, this eastward expansion is a significant step for the
WoodLINKS program. GVC is the first school outside of B.C. to
offer the WoodLINKS course.
Timberline Secondary School in Campbell River, BC has been
a pilot site for the WoodLINKS program for the past two years.
Like GVC, Timberline presently has ll students enrolled in
WoodLINKS. Due to the small enrollment, the Timberline students
have all been placed into regular wood-working courses.
"This is not the best situation," says teacher Doug
Kearney, "but we will make do as we did last year."
Shop programs in B.C. are sometimes seen as "dumping
grounds" for students who are not going on to university
studies. Kearney says Timberline is trying to change that perception
"by making trades courses in the secondary school count
towards college trades courses."
Timberline is in a good position to do this since it is a
joint secondary school and college and the different level trade
courses are offered "side by side and even share the same
When students at GVC and Timberline Secondary have passed
both the introductory and advanced WoodLINKS courses, they will
qualify for a certificate, which is recognized all over North
America as a valuable addition to a student's resume. Employers
in the wood industry would obviously choose a student with a
WoodLINKS certificate over someone who does not have one.
Most of the wood industry jobs in the Campbell River area
are in logging and saw mills. The WoodLINKS program aims to simulate
jobs in secondary wood processing. Graduates can seek jobs on
the computer side of the industry or on the technical planning
side. The training should lead to an above-average entry level
Kearney said that secondary wood-processing jobs are typically
small independent operations. Because of this, starting wages
are around ten to fifteen dollars per hour but the employees
can work their way up.
Mel Vanstone, the WoodLINKS teacher at GVC, says that, at
the entry level, his students may not start at a higher wages,
but they will have a much better chance of getting the jobs they
want. With the WoodLINKS training, they should also be able
to advance more quickly from their entry-level position.
Any new program encounters challenges, but Vanstone says he
was surprised by one he has encountered. For two months out of
the term, the GVC students need to start at 8:00 a.m. This fits
with the starting time of local wood industry work sites, but
is an hour earlier than most GVC students start their day.
"In a blue-collar town like Winkler, ninety percent of
the people start work at 8:00 o'clock," says Vanstone. "We
never anticipated a problem (with the starting time). We thought
that students in their last year of high school would have no
problem being at school at 8:00. However, we did have some whining
and complaining about the early classes."
There is no cost to the WoodLINKS students at either GVC or
at Timberline Secondary. As part of the program, students design,
manufacture and market a product. Doug Kearney says his students
can use this as a motivating opportunity to earn money and, after
the shop expenses are paid, to divide the profits.
GVC will allow its WoodLINKS students to keep one of the mass-produced
items, with the remaining items raffled off as a fundraiser.
In the future, GVC students anticipate contracting to make a
product for a local wood business.