Vancouver Island University Announces Skilled Trades Program for Newcomers

August 21, 2023

Newcomers to Canada who want to pursue a career in the trades will get some extra help starting this September, thanks to a new program at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

Called Trades Pathways for Newcomers, the cohort-based bridging program supports newcomers looking for a career in the trades by ensuring they have the skills, knowledge and supports to successfully transition into the educational programs that will get them there.

“There is a significant demand for skilled tradespeople. At the same time, there are not enough people to fill the positions that are available,” said Cameron Frenette, chair of VIU’s Carpentry program.

According to BC’s Labour Market Outlook report, there will be more than 72,000 job openings in the province’s construction industry over the next 10 years.

“With Nanaimo growing in both size and diversity, many newcomers are flowing into the region with either a background in trades or skills that would lend themselves well to working in the trades in Canada,” said Darrell Harvey, VIU’s Trades Pathways Coordinator. “What we’re trying to do is bridge that gap to help newcomers find their way into these trades jobs.”

A trades background is not required to join the program. Content will weave together career and trade-specific English language training along with math and other necessary workplace skills and knowledge. 

Students will shadow different trades programs at VIU, including carpentry, electrical, baking, culinary and others depending on each student’s interests. They will also meet employers to get a sense of what working in different trades is like. Wraparound supports are available for students who decide they want to enter a full trades program at VIU.

One cohort starts in September and a second opens in January. Each will be 15 weeks long, 15 hours per week, with classes taking place in the mornings. Harvey said the schedule was designed to recognize other commitments newcomers may have, such as a full or part-time jobs or childcare duties. The program, which is tuition-free thanks to a $1 million provincial investment, is a collaboration between VIU’s trades programs and the Faculty of Academic and Career Preparation.

VIU is also working closely with community partners such as the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society, Cowichan Intercultural Society, school districts and WorkBC to ensure newcomers know about this support.

“There’s a world of rewarding career opportunities for people in skilled trades right now,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. “Programs like this offer people the education and training they need to pursue these jobs, while helping industry and employers to access the skilled workforce they need.”

Applications are now being accepted for the September intake and those who are interested or would like more information can contact Harvey directly at For more information, visit the Pathways program homepage.


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