Regina Trades and Skills Centre celebrates tenth anniversary

Regina Trades and Skills Centre celebrates tenth anniversary
For ten years, the Regina Trades and Skills Centre has been providing an innovative teaching style to help students get a "boot in the door." Today, alumni and those who run the school are reflecting on how it has evolved over the years. David Baxter reports.

The Regina Trades and Skills Centre (RTSC) celebrated its tenth birthday Monday, welcoming partners, students and alumni to their continuously changing facility.

It’s different than other job training programs. Staff meet regularly with industry partners to discuss what skills are in demand and then the RTSC tailors their course catalogue.

“If there is a real need coming up within two or three different companies in an industry, then we’ll talk about what that course can look like, what the components of that course need to be, and then we see if we can put it on,” RTSC executive director Brian Shankowsky explained.

Currently, programs being offered include plumbing, commercial cooking and sheet metal working. In a departure from conventional trades, the RTSC recently introduced an early-childhood care program. The first class is in progress.

RTSC alumnus Jason Bien said that his time at RTSC served as a launching point for his career as a journeyperson carpenter and site superintendent.

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“I went to the university for a semester, wasn’t quite my style of learning. Let’s face it, I’m a rough around the edges kind of country boy,” he said.

Bien graduated from the commercial construction program in late 2009 and was hired for his first job shortly after.

Shankowsky said that a vast majority of students are hired shortly after graduation. All the courses, which usually run seven to 12 weeks, include a two week work term where employers can “test-drive” prospects.

Regina Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hopkins said that at first, employers had reservations about the then-new institution, but that quickly fell by the wayside.

“At first, to be fair, it was hard to get employers. Because they were just kind of unsure how this was going to work. Now they’re coming to us saying, we need this,” Hopkins said.

Part of what attracts employers are the soft skills instilled in RTSC students. They are treated more like employees so they punch a time clock, are written up if they are late and are paid minimum wage. If someone has attitude problems and is continuously late or absent they can be fired.

“The employers make the rules because that’s where you’re going, so if employers say no cell phones, then it’s no cell phones,” Shankowsky said.

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The program is primarily funded through Saskatchewan’s economy ministry, plus receives federal skills training funding. This ensures the students can be paid for their work and do not pay tuition.

Since the offered programs change frequently, Bien said one of the most valuable things to bring to RTSC is an open mind.

“Sit down and talk to the educators and pick something that you might enjoy, and you never know what can happen from it,” he said.