Tuition waivers - Union training more accessible

Date: 
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

There weren’t a lot of dry eyes in the audience by the time Danny Gaspard finished telling his story during a press conference with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

By Corry Anderson-Fennell
BCBT Director of Communications

There weren’t a lot of dry eyes in the audience by the time Danny Gaspard finished telling his story during a press conference with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

Gaspard, a student in the electrical foundations program at the Electrical Joint Training Committee (EJTC), was a keynote speaker at the event, which was held to announce the expansion of tuition waivers for former youth in care to union-based trainers.

“I was born in Vancouver, and when I was two, my parents separated,” Gaspard told the crowd from the podium at Seaspan in North Vancouver. “For the next few years, my mom raised me, but my mom passed away when I was nine, and I went to live with my grandmother.”

Gaspard’s grandmother had difficulties managing her young grandson, who seemed to get into trouble a lot.

“So when I was 12, I went into foster care, where I lived with a few different families until I aged out of care at 19.”

After aging out of care, Gaspard enrolled in a culinary arts program at Thompson Rivers University, soon dropping out. He worked various construction jobs — painter, carpenter, drywaller — to support himself, and was even homeless for a while.

Eventually, he ended up with the Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society (ACCESS), where he learned about the EJTC.

“I felt like it might be too good to be true,” said Gaspard of the opportunity to become a Red Seal electrician.

Between ACCESS and SkillPlan, which is a joint workforce development initiative of labour and management, Gaspard secured himself a spot in the foundations program. Working side-by-side with electricians all those years as he did odd construction jobs, Gaspard had been dreaming of becoming a so-called “sparky” for years.

“In a few years, I’ll be a Red Seal electrician,” Gaspard said, to resounding applause, then said it again, to even more applause.

Gaspard’s grandmother was in the audience, and received a special thank-you from her grandson.

“I just want to thank her for everything she did for me and also tell her she shouldn’t worry about me anymore because I’m going to be a Red Seal electrician.

“It is my hope that with this announcement here today, other former youth in care will have this chance, too — the chance to learn a trade without facing tuition fees they’ll never be able to afford.

“If someone wants to learn, and wants to build a career and contribute to their community, they should always be able to do that, regardless of financial need. Thank you, Minister Mark, for taking away this barrier and helping make life better for former youth in care.”

In September 2017, Premier John Horgan announced the expansion of the tuition waiver program to all 25 public postsecondary institutions. The new announcement expands the provincial tuition waiver program to include training programs delivered by union trainers in the construction trades.

The number of former youth in care benefiting from tuition waiver programs has increased by 77 per cent. About 189 youth benefited from bursaries or waivers between September 2016 and June 2017 compared to 335 former youth in care who benefited from the provincial tuition waiver program between September 2017 and March 2018.

“Expanding the tuition waiver program to union-based training schools, which are jointly managed by unions and contractors, is great news,” said Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the BC Building Trades. “Our members already provide wraparound career and personal supports to help apprentices through their training and this is a further investment in their continued success.”

For More Information: 

Contact the BC Building Trades office
(778) 397-2220

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