Lethbridge College has long been a destination for people looking for professional development and skills upgrading. But, as two partnerships with Blood Tribe Employment and Skills Training (BTEST) show, LC Extension also plays a role in connecting community organizations with the wealth of expertise available at the college.
This past summer, LC Extension worked with BTEST to run a pair of programs – an introduction to trades and construction program and a coding camp for high school students – to develop real-world skills for students from the Blood Tribe.
“Typically, what happens is a community organization like BTEST comes to us with a concept or an idea we help flesh out,” explains Jason Donkersgoed, Director, LC Extension. “Once we have that and all the desired outcomes, we begin the process of pulling all the pieces together within the college, like finding the right instructors.”
The 21-week Introduction to Trades program taught students the essentials of construction, including carpentry, electrical, plumbing, drywall, framing, insulating, roofing, tiling and painting. Students also had the opportunity to earn safety tickets as part of the program. Twelve students took part in the program on the Blood Reserve and, under the guidance of Lethbridge College instructor Roy Sugai, they worked together to build a 249-square-foot, one-bedroom “tiny home.”
“We know our students require a lot of hands-on training, and this project was a perfect fit for them, as it really delved into all the aspects of construction,” says Wayna Beebe, BTEST Director. “It really helped them to take ownership of the project and gave them a good understanding of homebuilding from the ground up.”
Sugai says the partnership and program also help meet the growing need for skilled workers on the reserve itself.
“There’s lots of work coming up on for the Blood Tribe, like the new campus facility for Red Crow Community College,” explains Sugai. “[The program] gives these students the tools, skills and experience to go on to bigger jobs. By having it here on the reserve, they have access to the job site and housing while they learn.”
Sugai says the project has been successful, with two students finding jobs in the field before they even finished the program and others moving on to further their training in construction and trades, including carpentry and electrical training.
This summer, LC Extension and BTEST also collaborated on a project that brought teens from the Blood Reserve to campus in Lethbridge for a two-week computer coding camp taught by instructors from the Virtual and Augmented Reality certificate program. Participants in the camp were introduced to coding concepts and the basics of game development on the way to creating their 2D and 3D video games, which they showcased to friends and family on the camp’s final day. Participants left the camp with donated laptops and a host of new, valuable skills.
“What we wanted to emphasize was the skills and competencies that they gained from this camp – like problem solving and critical thinking – will help them no matter what they choose to do in the future, whether or not they want to be a programmer as a career or if they want to go into a completely different occupation,” says Mike McCready, Lethbridge College's President's Applied Research Chair in Virtual and Augmented Reality.
Donkersgoed says the two programs highlight how the expertise at Lethbridge College can be leveraged to benefit the community at large.
“We have so much expertise here in each of our academic centers and in the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Innovation,” he says. “What we’re trying to do [at LC Extension] is package those with the desired outcomes and competencies in a way that moves the needle. We’re very fortunate to be able to work with a fantastic organization like BTEST that wants to move their community forward in terms of skills development and employability.”