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B.C. trades students could see delays entering work force as coronavirus upends training

New concerns about trade students not graduating
WATCH: New concerns about trade students not graduating.

The B.C. government is grappling with ways to ensure trades students and others requiring hands-on learning will get the training needed to enter the workforce.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led to many colleges fast-tracking students without all the technical requirements, as well as cancelling practicums until the fall in some cases.

The province is trying to figure out a way to ensure students are ready to start working in the trades, even if they haven’t received the standard practical training.

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“That is a real concern. Minister Melanie Mark is reviewing that now with presidents of universities and colleges. All of the lab work that needs to be done, it’s not just in those practical applications or co-op programs where there is hands-on work,” Premier John Horgan said Wednesday.

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“There are many bachelor of science degrees that require intense laboratory work that has to be done under supervision within a confined area that is usually on a campus.”

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For example, welding programs are cancelled at the B.C. Institute of Technology (BCIT) because instruction is done in close contact with students. In addition, the building normally houses between 60-120 people at any given time.

BCIT has moved 50,000 students to primarily online learning.

READ MORE: BCIT moving classes online amid COVID-19 pandemic

“Every public post-secondary institution in B.C. and the Industry Training Authority have acted rapidly to move to digital program delivery and innovative ways to ensure students and apprentices continue to receive instruction. This has been an enormous undertaking in a very short period of time,” Mark said in a statement.

“Institutions, public PSI’s (Postsecondary Student Information Systems) and the ITA (Industry Training Authority) are reviewing the educational and apprenticeship requirements for their programming. We’re encouraging them to be flexible in their approach, and we’re very grateful for their leadership in this difficult time.”

The BC Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry is working with institutions to recognize students who have completed the competencies — but not necessarily the hours — required for Health Care Assistant program completion.

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In the area of trades training, the ITA has modified some exam sessions so that apprentices can still take their exams, while meeting the provincial health officer’s physical distancing guidelines.

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The faculty of nursing at Langara College is still doing practicums.

But the dean of the program, Dr. Ann Syme, says they are being done under the rules laid out by the province’s chief medical health office.

“We have to be very sure when we enter the clinical placement areas that we are following all the policies, which we do anyways, but now we need to be just a little more mindful,” Syme said.

“We are working with the health authorities to ensure we can bring our students in. It’s normally a cohort of eight plus an instructor. But if we can’t bring in the eight, we will bring two one day, two the next day, two the next and two the next day. We want to make sure our students get the kind of exposure they need.”

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