A provincially-funded program is giving grades 5 and 6 students a chance to try their hand at a dozen of careers from carpentry to medicine.
Career Trek has 180 students each year that meet every Saturday for 12 weeks from November through to April, and each time, they get a taste of a new career path.
The children are nominated by their school to attend the program, and Nola Warnica, Career Trek project manager, said there are lots of reasons they are chosen.
Some kids may be picked because they are struggling in school, and need some direction, while others may excel at school and would benefit from broadening their skillset.
"It’s such a wide scope of why kids are chosen," Warinca said. "The biggest reason they’re chosen is the commitment to the program."
She said it’s a chance for career exploration in a hands-on setting.
Students rotate between classes at Brandon University, Assiniboine Community College and the Westbran Training Centre, and each section is taught by post-secondary students from those schools.
Students come from all over Westman into Brandon each Saturday for the classes.
"We have kids coming from as far as Russell to programming on a Saturday, so that’s a two-hour hike on a bus," Warnica said.
Career Trek in Winnipeg offers a second phase to the program, offering more specific training for Grade 9 students, which Warnica hopes will begin in Westman in the coming years.
The training program, which has been in Westman for five years, is attempting to catch kids early to show students career paths they might otherwise have ignored as they enter into junior high and high school.
Along with projects the students complete during each session, they are taught about the importance of the classes they are taking in school.
"For kids that absolutely hate math, but love carpentry, they realize they need math because they need to learn how to measure," she said. "So it’s not just about post-secondary education but about why school is important for them now."
The careers in the program include agriculture, business administration, health studies, political studies, education, police studies, and media and web design, among others.
"The trades are something that is new for us this year because they’re very important, and we want these kids to know there’s more out there, and kids don’t always think of trades."
According to the Canada-Manitoba Labour Market Agreement for 2012-13, demand for workers is expected to outpace the supply by 2016 and demand for skilled trades workers will be among the highest over the next decade.
This will lead to an estimated shortage of over 20,000 workers by 2020, according to the report. It is estimated that 59 per cent of job openings over the next 10 years will require some post-secondary education or training.
To meet labour demand in the trades sector, the province plans to provide support for "project based activities to help better position certain high-risk groups for training," including high-risk youth, the report reads.
For more information on Career Trek, visit careertrek.ca.