Original Published 20:01 Apr 08, 2022

By Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Manitoba has earmarked more than $1.4 million for schools to upgrade vocational learning equipment and scale up hands-on training to better prepare graduates for post-secondary education and employment.

“We’re keeping up with the times — making sure that students are working on the best, most up-to-date equipment that they could possibly have within their own shops and vocational programming,” Education Minister Wayne Ewasko announced Friday.

During a news conference inside Kildonan-East Collegiate’s auto shop, Ewasko said 35 schools will benefit from one-time grants to improve various technical, vocational and industrial arts programs.

The new support will ensure instruction is relevant to current and future labour market needs, while meeting workplace health and safety and industry standards, according to the minister.

School leaders had to apply for the 2022-23 grants through the Skills Strategy Equipment Enhancement Fund.

Kildonan-East Collegiate, a grades 9-12 building in the River East Transcona School Division that offers 11 vocational programs, is among the recipients.

The Winnipeg high school, which has upwards of 1,200 students, has secured funding to purchase an electrical vehicle kit for hands-on science, electrical and automotive training.

Principal Darwin MacFarlane said he hopes students will be excited about the opportunity to build and take apart something as significant as an electrical vehicle.

“The infrastructure in Manitoba for electrical vehicles isn’t there yet, but it’s coming — so we really wanted our students to have that opportunity,” MacFarlane said, noting the auto curriculum discusses sustainable development and electric vehicles.

“Lots of students will know how-to pick up a hammer and use it, but lots of students won’t know not to touch a certain battery because it’s super high voltage.”

In the past, the school has received so-called SSEEF grants to purchase equipment such as photography tools and digital media software.

MacFarlane acknowledged Friday many vocational programs were greatly affected at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, given “teaching (technical education) at home doesn’t work.”

Small classes resumed in September 2020 with face-to-face instruction under strict public health guidelines.

“We know that coming out of the pandemic, we’re going to need to make sure that our kids, our students are skilled-up and ready for post-pandemic (life) to help with the economic recovery right here in Manitoba,” Ewasko said Friday.

This item reprinted with permission from Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg, Manitoba