PORT McNEILL—With an eye toward helping North Island secondary school students renew a partnership with local business and industry, the Regional District of Mount Waddington Board of Directors voted last week to contribute $15,000 toward School District 85’s new Connections program.
“We’re looking at getting students on the North Island outside of our building and getting their hands dirty, so to speak,” said Jay Dixon, the vice principal at North Island Secondary School who will direct the program. “To get them some workplace awareness.”
Dixon and Scott Benwell, superintendent and CEO of School District 85, spoke to directors in a presentation held prior to the board’s regular meeting Dec. 18.
The Connections program, an extension of a workplace partnership sponsored last school term through the Labour Market Partnership (LMP), will also be open to students from Port Hardy Secondary and Eke Me-Xi Learning Centre on Tsulquate Reserve.
The funding approved by the RDMW comes from the provincial Strategic Community Investment Fund. It will provide work clothing and safety gear, transportation and access to essential skills training for the students.
The funds will be combined with $23,500 already secured by SD85 through the LMP. That amount covers one block of Dixon’s salary and some marketing and transportation.
“With the potential for further investment from the RD, we would anticipate this being more robust and including more students in the opportunity,” said Benwell. “We know from businesses and industry they’re calling for the essential skills of employment.”
The program recalls the former Career Prep program that placed students in job situations a generation ago. Dixon said he was a beneficiary of that program when he attended school on the North Island 16 years ago.
“Times have changed,” Dixon said. “We have about half as many students as we had in our buildings then. Provincially, when districts shrunk, one of the first things that went was work experience programs.
“I’ve been itching to get it back into our system.”
The board vote on the $15,000 funding was held after Benwell and Dixon departed. The money comes from part of a $135,000 grant provided to the RD through the Strategic Community Investment Fund.
“It’s good to see the rubber hitting the road on this after so many years,” said Port Hardy Mayor Bev Parnham.