Eighteen-year-old Giovanni Rizzo avoided the rush of high school graduates looking for work.
In fact, his search for a well-paying permanent job was pretty much over before it began two years ago when he made the choice to enter the Central Interior Regional Career Technical Centre program to study welding.
It was a smart move.
Two years later, Rizzo has made enough money working as a welder at Wolktek Industries Inc. to afford a new car. Within the next year, he hopes to buy his first house.
During his high school days at D.P. Todd secondary school, Rizzo was never too keen on studying calculus or Einstein's scientific theories, but loved working with his hands. When his teacher, Heather McPherson, told him about the CTC trades program he jumped at the chance to apply as a welder/fabricator.
"I was never good at school itself, I always wanted to be in the mechanics shop or woodworking shop instead of sitting in a class six hours a day writing stuff, I wanted to be doing something," said Rizzo.
"The people I know who did the CTC program have been the most successful [of his high school peers]. I could have a house [paid off] by the time I'm 30 or 35. I feel if my parents needed help I could financially help them just because of the way trades are, you're able to make amazing amounts of money."
By enrolling in CTC at the College of New Caledonia while he was a high school student, Rizzo paid $1,600 less than half of what is charged to an adult student. He's now making $17 per hour and Wolftek is paying for an apprenticeship for Rizzo to earn his fabricator's ticket, which will boost his wage significantly. Six-figure salaries are becoming commonplace for tradesmen working in the field in the mining or oil and gas sectors and Rizzo would love to cash in to that degree.
"It's been amazing, the opportunity they've been giving people to be doing the CTC program to get the extra leg up on everybody else who goes into the program after they graduate," Rizzo said. "I enjoyed the program very much. I got a job right out of high school."
Rizzo is just one of the nearly 1,000 School District 57 high school graduates who have completed the CTC program over the past 15 years.
CTC students take their trades training instead of high school electives, usually starting in Grade 11. The second semester of Grade 11 and the first semester of Grade 12 are devoted to CTC studies. All students are required to have completed their Grade 11 core classes before they begin CTC. The high school credits they receive also apply to the college apprenticeship program.
Rizzo's mother Maria, says CTC was perfect for her son, who has always been a motivated self-starter, willing to work hard at whatever he attempts.
"He totally believes in the program and he's done really well and it's done well for him," said Maria. "He always wanted to go to school, but when he got there he was always like, 'Why am I here."
At Thursday's presentation at the CNC trades and technical centre, Don Gowan, a regional general manager for Finning Canada, spoke about the looming shortage of skilled tradesmen that currently exists in northern B.C., and how the CTC program is helping to fill that need by funneling high school graduates into the trades. Gowen said there are an estimated $79 billion in projects for northern B.C. either underway or proposed.
Each year, 60 students enroll in CTC, which also offers training in automotive service and collision repair, carpentry/joinery, electrical/electronics, heavy duty/commercial transport, industrial mechanic millwright/machinist, natural resources and environmental technology, plumbing, professional cooking.
The program is the result of a partnership between CNC, School District 57 and Initiatives Prince George. Sponsors include: Wolftek, United Steelworkers, BID Group of Companies, Canfor, IDL Projects Inc., Northern Steel Ltd., Rona and Finning.
"The significant difference right now is the work climate in the north and in Prince George particular has changed dramatically in the last two years," said CTC program co-ordinator Bruce Northrop. "When we were putting kids out on work experience we asked 22 heavy equipment organization in Prince George if they could take summer students, 21 of them said yes. All of our electricians, all of our cooks and all of our carpenters worked. Three years ago, that just wouldn't have happened."