Stories & features

Students gain first-hand career experience through Youth Hires program

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The 2016 Youth Hires during their orientation and safety training at BC Hydro's Trades Training Centre in Surrey.

Making the shift from the classroom to the workplace

If you’re a student getting ready to make the shift from the classroom to the workplace, it can be difficult deciding which route to take and which career to pursue.

What better way to help with that decision than experiencing first-hand the day-to-day life of someone doing the job that you’re interested in? That’s the goal of our Youth Hires program.

The program connects recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in the trades with the opportunity to learn alongside experts at BC Hydro. Participants are paired up with a manager at a BC Hydro facility in different parts of province, in a field that interests them. Then they spend six weeks shadowing the crew and experiencing first-hand what the job entails.

A stepping stone towards a dream job

“We have students who have a general interest in the trades but aren’t sure exactly what they want to do, and participating in the program can help with that decision,” explains Valerie, who leads the program for BC Hydro. “Other times, students are set on certain trade and the experience they gain is invaluable towards helping them stand out during the recruitment process to land their dream job.”

The application process just to get into the program is competitive. Over 298 students applied for a spot this past summer and only 20 were selected. The basic requirements include:

  • A valid driver’s license
  • High school graduation
  • Completion of English 12, Math 11 and Science 11.

Participants are also selected based on their desire to pursue a certain trade, willingness to learn, ask questions, and be a part of a team.

Here’s what three of the 2016 youth hires who are just finishing up their six-week placement have to say about the program and their experience:  

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Brendan during his final week of the Youth Hires program in Burnaby.

Brendan

Location: Burnaby
Trade: Power line technician

What interested you in the youth hires program?

I wanted to gain a first-hand understanding of what a power line tech does and see their day-to-day work. My goal is to one day work full-time for BC Hydro so it seemed like a good way to get my foot in the door, ask questions, and be exposed to the company culture.

What have you been doing as part of your placement?

This is my second time participating in the program. Last year I did my placement with meter technicians in the Lower Mainland. Meter technicians are responsible for installing, repairing, and testing electricity meters, the ones on the side of your house or business.

That roles requires a lot of technical knowledge for sure, but it also involves a lot of customer service. We spent time going door-to-door when we were testing and making repairs to meters to ensure the customer was aware of what we were doing and why we were there. This showed me that the skills needed to be successful in this role are beyond just technical; being personable and customer service-focused are also key.

This summer, I’ve been placed with a power line technician (PLT) crew in Burnaby. I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of the same work someone in BC Hydro’s pre-apprentice PLT program would do. The work is varied and always interesting. It involves a lot of physical labour, driving to different job sites, preparing timber for cross-arm construction, making connections etc.

This has shown me that a person looking to get into this field needs to be willing to put in long hours doing physical work. Teamwork is also a huge part of the work of a PLT. The work can be dangerous so you need to work together, communicate well and keep safety top of mind so everyone can go home safe at the end of the day.

What have you enjoyed most about the program?

I can’t say enough about how valuable the experience that I’ve gained has been and how it will be helpful for me in pursuing a career as a PLT. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the people working in the industry and the culture at BC Hydro. Everyone I’ve had the chance to work with has made me feel welcome and as a part of the team.

They’ve been happy to answer my questions and spend the extra time explaining things so I understand the work being done. They’ve also provided really great advice on how to prepare for a career as a PLT and the recruitment process.

Do you see yourself pursuing this trade in the future?

Yes, I definitely want to pursue a career in the electrical field, whether as PLT, meter technician or an electrician in a switchyard. My next step after I complete the program in a couple of weeks will be to apply to BC Hydro’s pre-apprentice power line technician program.

What’s been your favourite experience so far?

Climbing a power pole at the training centre was certainly a highlight for me. The journeymen PLTs on the crew make it looks so easy but it’s much harder than it looks.

What advice do you have for future program participants?

Your placement will really be what you make of it. Show up ready to work with a desire to learn, ask questions, and really appreciate each opportunity you’re given.  

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Aileen getting ready to head out on a site visit with one of BC Hydro's Design Technicians in North Vancouver.

Aileen

Location: North Vancouver
Trade: Design technician

How did you hear about the program?

I did the Trades Discovery Program at BCIT and did a two-week job shadow at the Meridian Substation with BC Hydro electricians where I first heard of the program. My teacher at BCIT also suggested I apply.

What interested you about the program?

The program seemed to offer an amazing opportunity to see what the job is like first-hand. When else in life to you get to try out a job before you commit to it? It also seemed like it would be a great way to get my foot in the door and pursue a career at BC Hydro.

What have you been doing during your placement?

I’ve been placed with the Design team at the North Vancouver/Coastal office where I spend most of my time shadowing the design technicians. They take me out in the field with them and show me what they’re looking for when they visit a site. For example what pole to build off of, if a customer’s connection request is viable, etc.

During my time in the office, I’ve been able to learn about the different computer programs used and how the technicians issue work orders and keep track of all the different projects. I was able to speak to the drafter here as well who showed me what she does once she receives a drafting request from the designers, and spend a day with a civil inspector out in the field. I’ve been able to do some hands-on office work as well such as making BC One calls, filing drawings, and sorting files. I’m hoping to spend a day with a power line technician crew next week to see what they do once they receive a work order from the designers. This will be great as I’ll get the full picture of how the different roles all work together.

What do you like about the program?

I appreciate the hands-on experience I’ve gained through the youth hires program. Reading a job description only gives you a small idea of what a job is like, whereas actually getting to spend time in the office allows you to see what the designers do on a day-to-day basis. It provides a very comprehensive view of what I would be doing if I pursued this career.

Do you see yourself pursuing this trade once you graduate?

I can definitely see myself continuing with this work and I’ve been researching the education I’d need to pursue a career as a design technician.

Is there anything that surprised you about this trade?

I actually had never even heard of this career until I got placed here through the program, so I had no idea what I would be doing. It’s a lot more customer-service oriented than I had expected, with the designers staying in contact with the customers throughout the jobs they work on. They’re definitely embracing BC Hydro’s core value of being here for their customers.

What’s been your favourite experience so far?

I had the opportunity to do a few site checks with a design technician on Bowen Island. The little mini trip was a nice break from the office and he showed me a variety of jobs so that I would get the most out of the trip. One highlight was seeing the beginning stages of a new community development project that will need a way to be electrified. The scenic drive around the island was a great bonus.

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Zachary (left) with fellow Youth Hire, Mickey (right) in front of G.M. Shrum Generating Station near Hudson's Hope.

Zarchary

Location: G.M. Shrum Generating Station (near Hudson’s Hope)
Trade: Electrician

How did you hear about the youth hires program?

I first heard about the program from a presentation that BC Hydro did at my Band Hall at Saulteau First Nation.

What interested you about the Youth Hires program?

I want to pursue a career as an electrician and have completed my Level 1 trades ticket in electrical and thought this would give me more experience in the trade.   

What have you been doing during your placement?

Each day is different. I have had the opportunity to observe the electricians at work and see what they do. I’m posted at G.M. Shrum Generating Station in Hudson’s Hope but had the opportunity work at Peace Canyon Dam as well and with different crews. I’ve been able to do some hands-on work such as wiring and changing flex links because I have electrical experience already. I’ve also had the opportunity to shadow a communication protection and control (CPC) technologist and learn about their trade.

What do you like about the program?

Everyone has been so welcoming and goes out of their way to show you around, explain the work they’re doing, and different procedures. It’s been great to be able to learn from the Journeyman electricians at BC Hydro and gain some more hands-on experience. This will be very helpful as I look to pursue an apprenticeship.

Do you see yourself pursuing this trade once you graduate?

Yes, my goal is to land an apprenticeship position where I can complete the work experience hours that I need to get my Level 2 electrical ticket and then complete my Electrical Foundations.

What type of person would be a good fit for Youth Hire program?

Someone who has a genuine interest in learning about a trade, who is willing to ask questions, and can ‘go-with-the-flow’ as you’ll always be doing different things and the more willing you are to try new things, the more you’ll learn and the more valuable you’ll be to the crew you’re with.