It's no secret New Brunswick has an aging population. By 2027, one in every four New Brunswickers will be 65+, and there will be a critical need for young people to fill skilled jobs across all sectors, including construction, maintenance, transportation, manufacturing and many others.
The New Brunswick Teen Apprentice Program (NBTAP) is an industry-led pre-apprentice program for high school students interested in pursuing a skilled trade. NBTAP Student Apprentices participate in up to 3 paid summer work terms with one of 125+ NBTAP employers across the province. These employers commit to provide Student Apprentices with coaching and mentorship and provide a positive and meaningful skilled trades work experience.
“NBTAP facilitates the early connection between employers facing a potential skilled trades labour gap and young New Brunswickers,” says Lisa Steeves, Executive Director of NBTAP. “We do this by working directly with employers to identify the skilled trades careers they will need to fill in the future. Then, in the fall, we recruit Grade 10 and 11 students who have an interest and ability to be successful as skilled trades pre-apprentices. Applications open toward the end of the month and we look forward to receiving applications from interested candidates.”
Since its inception in 2011, more than 125 NBTAP employers across New Brunswick have hired and trained Student Apprentices, and 179 students have successfully completed the program. Program alumni go on to graduate high school having a head start on their skilled trades career, with pre-apprentice hours that count toward a formal apprenticeship down the road.
NB Southern Railway: A Proud NBTAP Employer
NB Southern Railway, based in Saint John, has employed NBTAP Student Apprentices since 2013. And, that's not all. Two program alumni now work at the railway full-time, and a current high school student (and NPTAP Student Apprentice) is currently completing her Grade 12 co-op placement at NB Southern Railway.
“NB Southern Railway was one of the first employers in the province to partner with NBTAP and hire Student Apprentices,” adds Steeves. “It was clear from early conversations with the company that they understood the long-term value of providing high school students with on-the-job skilled trades learning opportunities.
“The average age of a registered apprentice in NB is 29. When progressive employers like NB Southern hire Student Apprentices, they are proactively investing in their future workforce while also given students the opportunity to become a certified journeypersons in their early 20s. This is a great advantage for employers, students, and our province. It’s a win-win-win!”
Kevin Babcock, Maintenance Supervisor with NB Southern Railway, has worked with NBTAP Student Apprentices in some capacity each of the last five years he's been in a supervisory role with the company:
"It's been very rewarding to see [these students] develop new skills and experiences in the trades, and working around large equipment," he says. "When the students come in, most are pretty shy and timid about working with the crews. After a while, they come out of their shells and feel more comfortable with both the crews and equipment. You can see they enjoy doing jobs they never thought they could do."
Read on to learn about these NBTAP participants now working with the railway! Claire, Connor and Kenny have great stories and advice to share.
Claire Godsoe: NBTAP Student Apprentice, Industrial Mechanic Pre-Apprentice
Claire discovered NBTAP after seeing a poster at school. She visited the program's website and read about the different trades offered.
"It appealed to me very much, so I decided to take a chance and go for it. I was excited to receive a placement in my desired trade, industrial mechanics," she says. "What appealed to me most about the program was the opportunity to get an early start on my career. [NBTAP] is also low-risk because it's made for us young people with no previous industrial experience. NBTAP is designed for students to succeed."
Following her first two NBTAP summer placements as a Student Apprentice with another company, Claire is now working as a High School Co-op Student with NB Southern Railway. Having started her placement in September 2019, she is based in the company's West Saint John shop, working on locomotives and track equipment. To her mind, NBTAP is providing her with a solid plan for her future.
"The industrial experience NBTAP gave me helped me decide that I do want to go into industrial mechanics," she confirms. "I applied early to the mechanical technician course at NBCC. All of my pre-apprentice hours also count toward my apprenticeship in the future, which will help me receive my Red Seal certification sooner. It feels good to have a plan."
Connor Dann: NBTAP Alumni, Future Apprentice
Connor was introduced to NB Southern Railway as an NBTAP Student Apprentice in 2016. He began working in the company's locomotive shop and quickly found he enjoyed the environment and the work:
"Taking part in NBTAP got my foot in the door here at the railway and gave me knowledge and experience that most people don't get until they leave school. I learned how a shop runs, and lots of useful skills I draw on every day."
Following three summer placements, Connor met with NB Southern's HR team and expressed his desire to stay with the company following high school graduation. After a year of full-time work on the shop's diesel side, he transitioned to working on railcar repairs and maintenance.
"I don't think young people realize how rewarding working in the trades can be," he says. "Sometimes it may be hard work, or dirty, but to be able to look back at the end of the day and see what you have built, fixed, etc., that's a good feeling. To be able to think 'I did that.' In my opinion, apprenticeships are a great way to learn hands-on, to know how the job actually works and what's expected of you."
Kenny Nogueira: NBTAP Alumni, Industrial Mechanic Apprentice
Kenny is an NBTAP alumnus, and full-time NB Southern Railway employee since 2015. He credits the program with exposing him to real-world working life and showing him how to be committed to a job, always giving it 100%.
"My participation in NBTAP allowed me to get a foot in the door with a large employer in [Saint John] and have the ability to not just find a job, but have a career," he says. "The [placements] taught me very early on how to use the tools in my trade properly and gave me early experience in the field."
Getting more young people interested in skilled trades is a challenge across all sectors. Kenny's advice? Find the young people interested in the jobs, bring more employers on board. Keep sharing success stories, and showcase the environments apprentices actually work in. In a message specially for students, he says:
"Do not think that you're not good enough or smart enough to try and get where you want to be. Every opportunity you pass up is one you will not get back. Don't be afraid of the challenges or change. You will adapt and grow with them along the way. It takes time and persistence to become an expert in your field."
NBTAP will begin recruiting high school students for 2020 Summer Student Apprentice placements on November 25th, with candidate interviews taking place from March to May. If you know someone thinking about a future in skilled trades, share this article with them and let them know it's a great time to begin training. There are opportunities for skilled trades workers in New Brunswick, and many more will come to light over the next ten years.
Visit https://www.nbtap.ca/ for more information!