Enrichment Program Introducing Vocational Studies to Elementary Students: The WQCC and Eardley Partnership

Group picture of Eardley students with WQCC teachers

Welding, Automotive Mechanics, and many more vocational skills are currently in high demand in Canada’s workforce. The Western Québec Career Centre offers several professional programs to adult students wishing to enter the workforce with the required competencies and hands-on experience. However, adults are not the only ones who can benefit from the experiences provided in vocational education.

Director Damian Curley of the Western Québec Career Centre (WQCC) and Principal Julia Horner of Eardley Elementary School have been working together since 2018 to provide experiences for elementary students to discover new ways of learning. “Vocational training has a part to play in exposing children to different skills and new ways of learning abstract concepts,” Mr. Curley shares. This year, the WQCC aims to reveal new experiences to the students, keeping them engaged and learning in a way that will stick and become building blocks for future learning experiences.

There is a lot of thought put behind the selection criteria for which Eardley students get to attend these 101 courses at the WQCC. “The reality is, you need to be successful within academics to be successful in these trades. That is the first criterion,” says Julia Horner. Secondly, she adds that the students selected must have qualities that align with working in these trades, such as creativity for the fabrication process of Welding. For the Automotive program, an interest in deconstructing and reconstructing objects to understand how they work, is crucial. To truly thrive in vocational trades, students should be curious, creative, and have academic proficiency.

So far this year, the elementary students at Eardley Elementary have benefitted from four enrichment sessions at the WQCC. Accompanied by their dedicated staff, students walked over to the WQCC in about 25 minutes and attended a “101 Course” in one of the two programs (Welding or Automotive). The sessions lasted approximately two hours with a snack break halfway through. For these enrichment courses, WQCC teachers led students on a tour of the shop, taught them safety measures, how to operate machines, and gave students an opportunity to try out the tools.

Group photo of Eardley students in the Welding shop

The Welding course, facilitated by Sean Stewart and Wei Jun Shang, gave students the experience of welding their own candle holder to bring home. When the students were getting ready to leave, one of them exclaimed, “Maybe I’ll come here after high school!” In the Automotive workshop, facilitated by Tim Miller and Wesley Cerson, students learned how to fill in work orders, as well as how to change tires. They had the opportunity to practice both skills, and as a grand finale to the session, there was an exciting tire-changing challenge. Children were engaged and enthusiastic in all the workshops offered.

The Western Québec Career Centre has more partnerships on the go as well. In past years, the WQCC staff in partnership with the Canadian Welding Bureau, has provided summer camp programming in Introduction to Welding for elementary students. The program has been extremely well received. Currently, the WQCC has a partnership with D’Arcy McGee High School called “Technology and Skills Integration”. For this program, high school students attend the WQCC every Wednesday for eight weeks to learn basic and intermediate skills in Welding and Automotive mechanics. More on this partnership to come…

We would like to thank the wonderful staff at the WQCC and Eardley for creating such innovative and memorable opportunities for students to learn and to appreciate all that Vocational studies have to offer. We would also like to thank Julia Horner and Damian Curley for providing the information for this article.

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