In a first for Englefeld School, students are learning hands-on in an environment that’s new to them. An agreement between the school, the Horizon School Division and Schulte Industries allows a number of students to learn welding and fabricating skills toward both school and apprenticeship credit. It’s a program that has leaned on the support of agencies like Bourgault Industries in St. Brieux and in other locales where programs have been in place for a number of years. This year marks the first efforts in Englefeld. 

Zakary Sweet and Ethan Kirzinger are two of the Englefeld Grade 12 students participating in the credit welding course. For Sweet, the opportunity presents some obvious benefits. 

“One of the things with Schultes is we get to participate in a new learning experience that goes into our workplace in the future,” he says. “When we graduate into trades, it actually helps us learn and goes into the curriculum to get credit for it.”

The students not only have a chance to onboard serious welding skills, but they must also participate in modules, provided by the school, that cover Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S), Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), and other general and onsite safety requirements. The program also has the students completing the Saskatchewan Youth Apprenticeship (SYA) program that leads to additional hours calculated toward their trade service time and provides that opportunity for Industry Scholarships of up to $1000. 

For Ethan, the learning ultimately helps him with everyday challenges of farming, and he welcomes skills that will help with his day to day duties.

“I’ve done a little bit of welding beforehand, and it’s always fun. Here, I get to learn new tips and tricks. Really, I just want to progress and be a better welder, and be able to do a bit of everything and help out more.”

While Kirzinger may ply his trade on the family farm, Sweet has his eye on heavy duty mechanics, which will no doubt be part of his training. The accumulated hours from programs like SYA can be applied toward any apprenticeable trade. 

Kevin Pidwerbeski, head of HR at Schultes, and Glenn Thacyk, manager of operations, both had a hand in establishing the fledgling program at Schultes. Given the company’s international reputation with developing innovative agricultural and outdoor equipment, the synergy between the manufacturer and the school is important. 

“The program originated with a discussion between one of our management members here and the Englefeld School,” explains Pidwerbeski. “We realized that bringing youth into the manufacturing workforce is very important to our business, as well as other businesses in the area.” 

Pidwerbeski recognizes the skilled labour shortage in the industry, and those shortages have been met with immigrants coming on board through extensive recruitment efforts. Pidwerbeski is anxious to have the company take advantage of what he sees as a “missed opportunity with students going through the school system.”

“It’s a perfect opportunity fresh in our own backyard.”

Glenn Thacyk says the partnership plays perfectly into the innate career curiosity of senior high school students. 

“We know from analysis that the sooner you expose young people to careers, it allows a better chance of making decisions that are more aligned with their own skill sets and their own desires. So this gives them an opportunity to try things out in a very safe environment and make a decision whether this is a career they’d like to pursue.”

Pidwerbeski sees the immediate payoff as the Englefeld students, four in total, begin their journey in skilled trades work. He hopes the movement expands beyond the confines of Englefeld School.

“We’d like to continue with other schools right through this whole region,” he acknowledges. “It gives the students an opportunity to see us and make those kinds of long term decisions about their own lives.”