Superintendent strives to change attitudes about tradesNovember 15, 2013
Larry Espe, the province’s new superintendent of trades and transitions, is trying to change public attitudes about trades and skills education.
And he doesn’t have much time.
Espe, former superintendent for Peace River North school district, was hired in recent months by the Education Ministry to help B.C. prepare for a serious skills shortage that is expected to hit within the next few years.
The ministry wants to see a dramatic increase in the number of graduates moving directly from high school into trades training. For that to happen, more people will have to appreciate the value of hands-on learning.
That means ditching the old idea that the smart kids go to university while the not-so-smart kids take the non-academic route, he told parents attending the BCCPAC fall leadership conference in Kelowna.
“I want to help students, parents and teachers understand that real learning can happen while you’re standing up, talking, collaborating and even getting dirty,” Espe explains on a ministry website. “This type of learning is just as demanding as learning Physics or Chemistry or English. And it can set kids on a career path that just as important and rewarding as a white-collar professional.”
A father of three, Espe said restoring respect – at home and at school – for the trades will also give young people more opportunities to pursue their passions.
The existing school structure only works well for about 20 per cent of students, he told the conference. Another 20 per cent are so disillusioned they’re in danger of dropping out while the remaining 60 per cent will probably graduate, but they’re not really interested in what they’re learning.
In his new position, Espe hopes to help students find passion in learning – just not in the traditional way.
For starters, he said he would like to see schools turn off the bells that force an end to one subject and the start to another. “That stifles a lot of creativity for teachers and students,” he noted.
He’s also concerned about the state of school shops, which are often out-of-date or have been transformed into computer labs.
Espe stressed that he’s not suggesting a new one-size-fits-all to replace the old one-size-fits-all. Rather, he hopes to show students that there are many other pathways to a satisfying career.
A book he recommends is Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford.