Trades building now under construction at Immanuel Christian High School

By Garrett Simmons

Lethbridge School District No. 51

Communications Officer

Three years ago, the Society for Christian Education in Southern Alberta came to a realization.

“We found we were doing well for our academic students, but we were missing that piece for students wanting to go into the trades,” said Immanuel Christian High School principal Rob vanSpronsen.

At that point, the school and the society decided to create a trades program, which would be housed out of a 3,500-square-foot facility on 36th Street North. An open house was held soon after that decision, which got the program off and running.

“We had virtually no equipment at that time, and the open house raised $45,000 to get started,” said vanSpronsen. “We took that success as an indication there was a good amount of support for starting up a Trades Program. We set up a trades committee, and for three years we have rented that building. Then, we just thought, for the cost of rent, we could put that into a mortgage for a new building.”

With that, plans were in motion to construct a trades building right behind ICHS.

As the momentum grew, the facility quickly went from idea to reality. Construction is now underway, with steel girders now visible for a building which will house an 8,000-square-foot area for the trades.

The new building will allow ICHS to expand its programming, as the current facility only allows for nine students at any one time, as students alternate from woodworking projects one day to mechanical projects the next.

The facility is slated for completion in June, which will give ICHS much more flexibility for the 2017/2018 school year,

“Instead of offering programming every other day due to it being a shared facility, now we can offer two different programs during the same period,” said vanSpronsen, who added students will also have the ability to work on projects during their spares.

Without the need to bus students to a facility off-campus, students will be able to dedicate more time to their projects, according to the principal, who added the new building should also boost enrollment in the school’s trades program.

“The hope is we can also offer more advanced courses and get them into Skills Canada, and get them to really see their potential.”

Students have already created some impressive projects over the years, as vanSpronsen added two people hired to help run the program, a retired mechanic and a local tradesperson with his own woodworking company, have provided expert instruction.

“We’re trying to give the kids a real sense of what it would be like to work in that trade,” said vanSpronsen.

The program is not only benefitting high school students, but those in Grade 7, 8 and 9 also have the opportunity to take woodworking.

“We want to build those skills in the middle school years for those students, and teach them how to use tools and read plans and hopefully, they will be able to build bigger projects as seniors,” said vanSpronsen.

None of this would be possible without a tremendous level of support from the community, he added, as local tradespeople and businesses have been extremely generous in their support for the program.

In the future, the principal added the new building could also facilitate training for electrical and welding disciplines.

Date posted: Dec. 19, 2016