Sooke’s Edward Milne Community School won a gold in every category at the Skills Canada Regionals competition recently, earning the title as the top school on the South Island.
The school scored gold in public speaking, drafting and welding.
Shining brighter than any other school in trades may be a surprise to some, but not for EMCS principal Pat Swinburnson, who said the school’s big focus on the trades world comes from the curriculum itself, which is in high demand in Sooke.
“We try really hard to be as academic a school as we can, but the other side of that coin is also doing as much as we can for those students who want to go into the trades,” he said.
“We tend to send more kids to Skills Canada competitions than some of our other schools because we take it very seriously.”
It’s not just EMCS’s program either, but the students themselves who come into the trades program with both enthusiasm and experience.
“Kids come to us with skills. They’ve learned at home, and they already have a bit of a head start,” Swinburnson said, adding Sooke is unique in that regard, as the same program in bigger places, such as Richmond, struggles to raise students’ interest, nor do they obtain any pre-existing skills with trades.
“Here, you gotta slow our kids down, because they figure they know everything already and you have to kind of guide them into doing it the right way, but they’re very enthusiastic,” he said.
Involvement by Camosun College also plays a big part in EMCS’s success, as instructors come to the school for a full semester and a second semester to help students through the renown TASK trades program.
“We are extremely proud of our students who enter, regardless of whether they place, because it’s a great experience, so we’ll keep doing it,” Swinburnson said.
Sooke School District superintendent Jim Cambridge also acknowledged EMCS’s achievements with the trades program, adding much credit is given to the school’s emphasis on trades and robotics, which has connected to students.
“Apart from our traditional trades programs, which Skills Canada often looks into, EMCS is getting big buy-ins for kids who are potentially going to be engineers in a variety of different jobs,” Cambridge said. “I think it’s fantastic, and it fits into the other things that have been part of the EMCS culture of looking at creative ways of using your hands. I couldn’t be prouder of EMCS right now.”
In the provincials this year, the school also earned a silver in carpentry and the EMCS Robotics Club earned a bronze, though that means very little to the students involved, who have the gold in their sights.
“We’re a little school, but when we go into the provincial championships and the regionals, we go in there to win,” Swinburnson said.