About Dave Barrett
Dave Barrett is the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) Coordinator for the Bluewater District School Board and the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board. OYAP is a School to Work program that opens the door for students to explore and work in apprenticeship occupations starting in Grade 11 or Grade 12 through Cooperative Education, events and community partnerships.
Prior to Dave’s work with OYAP, he was the Project Manager for the Saugeen Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) for 12 years and worked in many different sectors and industries over his career.
**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.
Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest on the podcast is Dave Barrett. Dave is the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program Coordinator for the Bluewater District School Board and the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board. OYAP is a school to work program that opens the doors for students to explore and work in apprenticeship occupations starting in grade 11 or grade 12 through cooperative education events and community partnerships. Prior to Dave’s work with OYAP he was a project manager for the Saugeen Economic Development Corporation, SEDC for 12 years, and worked in many different sectors and industries over his career. I hope you enjoy this conversation and get a new perspective on future career planning for students with Dave.
Sam Demma (01:28):
Dave, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here with us. Please start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about what you do!
Dave Barrett (01:40):
All right. My name is Dave Barrett. I’m the Ontario youth apprenticeship program coordinator for two school boards both Bruce Grey, Catholic district school board and the Bluewater district school board. So we, I cover all of gray and Bruce counties, which is slightly bigger than the province of prince Edward island. And my job is to encourage students to explore the pathway of apprenticeship through co-op education and the great career opportunities in the skilled trades.
Sam Demma (02:05):
What got you into this work? Why OYAP and why are you the person doing it?
Dave Barrett (02:11):
That’s an interesting question because if you looked at my resume, I’m really not qualified to be doing what I’m doing. However in my previous career I worked in economic development and workforce development was a big piece of that. And it was one of the areas where we’d hear all the time that students weren’t participating in these great career opportunities and not exploring the skilled trades. Well, when I took on this role, I found out many were, but we, we opened up more opportunities for them to do it and tried them in different ways. And then through my role in my community contacts, we’ve created all kinds of, of different events for students to come and try it. It doesn’t matter if they’re on the academic college workplace or apprenticeship pathway, if you don’t try it, how can you know, if this is the career for you?
Dave Barrett (02:55):
So that was where sort of my, my role, my expertise, and my background brought to this. And we’ve just continued to raise the numbers of the number of students who are exploring. I don’t think the skilled trades are for everybody, but I also don’t think university is. And I also don’t think colleges, and sometimes you gotta work for a couple years to figure things out all are great pathways. I just wanna make sure people understand the skill old trades before they start thinking that this isn’t the career for them. Cuz there’s some great opportunities here.
Sam Demma (03:24):
I couldn’t agree more. I think every pathway is a valid option. Every student learner is different. You know, my dad is someone who works in skilled trades and half of my family works in skilled trades and it’s a, it’s a great way to make a living. And if you love building things and working with, and why not?
Dave Barrett (03:42):
The what, but if you never tried it before, when you were in elementary school, how can you, how can you know? Well, I don’t want to take tech when I get to high school. Yeah. So that’s, that’s kind of the, the stuff that we work towards
Sam Demma (03:52):
Now, did you grow up working with your hands and very involved in labor and you know, the trades yourself?
Dave Barrett (04:00):
I’ve had a varied background, so I I’m very upfront with students when I do my my OYAP presentation. Cool. And what I talk about is I’m somebody who gets bored after about seven to 10 years of doing anything . So I did work in construction and started an apprenticeship. And then I worked for a cabinet maker for about five years we were talking, we were, I was on the apprenticeship pathway and thought, you know what? I really don’t wanna do this. Then I bounced around. I got into healthcare and I was actually back in the day, they called them orderly, but I was a PSW in a nursing home, still the best job I ever had, but you know, moved on, did college pathway, cuz I wanted to do other things I worked in for a while. I was actually responsible for apprentices at an auto body shop for a number of years that I managed.
Dave Barrett (04:46):
And then I went into community economic development. So I used the university pathway to get my certifications there. And now I’m an OYAP coordinator and you know, that’s what we talk to students is whatever, whatever pathway you decide now you’re not locked in, you know, use the tool. And I, I, what I try and equate is the pathways are actually just tools. Use the tool when you need the tool. So if you need to do an apprenticeship, do an apprenticeship. If you go, you know what? I think I’m smarter than these engineers then great use the tool of university, go become an engineer and show them and move on in your career.
Sam Demma (05:19):
And how do you think a teacher who is, is not, you know, promoting OYAP and keep in mind, there might be educators listening as well. They’re outside of Ontario. So keep, how would you suggest a teacher promote different pathway opportunities, including the skilled trades to their students?
Dave Barrett (05:38):
I, what I encourage, I talk to my teachers about is I have no expecta that they would understand the skilled traits if they didn’t have family connection to them. Yeah. So use your experts. You know, Mo all teachers pretty well had followed the university pathway. They know it very well. They’re gonna promote it cuz it’s worked well for them. But contact your OYAP coordinator, your tech teachers your community partners and have them come in, cuz they’re the experts in this field. And, and that’s, that’s what we do here is my guidance folks, my student, success, people, careers, teachers all know who I am. They know how to reach me and I’ll come in and present the apprenticeship pathway for them and help them with activities. And then they’re the ones that I send the invitations to come to our hands on events and different events to hear different perspectives, women in skilled trades, indigenous youth in the skilled trades, you know we’ve got a nuclear power plant in our backyard that everybody wants to go work for. How do they get in there? Well, bring them here to say, here’s how you do it. You know, those types of things and use your use your local experts. People who consider, you know, expect teachers to know everything, baloney. They know what they know and their, and what their pathway took. Them, use your experts and, and locally we do pretty well with that. I think.
Sam Demma (06:54):
Yeah, I think you’re so right. Everyone goes into their job or their situation and most of their beliefs are based on their own past experiences. So if you know you
Dave Barrett (07:04):
Past experiences and perceptions. Yeah. And it’s, it’s funny cuz I actually start, I, I started it years ago, but I started my presentation with, I’m not here to recruit you to apprenticeship. I’m here to, to make sure you understand it before you start. Aren’t listening to people who haven’t got a clue, what they’re talking about. and then once we get into it, all of a sudden they’re going, oh, I had no idea the number of teachers that go, why didn’t I do this? You know, it it’s, it’s fascinating. But it’s just one of those things where there’s all these perceptions and I just spend all my time knocking them down so that when a student student hears it from somebody, they go, no, no, that’s not how it is. I do know this. So, and that, that’s how we’re breaking down those barriers. I
Sam Demma (07:45):
Love that. You can see here, no one can see this who’s listening, but there’s a little empty upside down backpack on top of my hat. And , I, I have this belief that every person in life has an invisible bag strapped to their back and is filled with all those perspectives and past experiences that shape their beliefs. And you kind of carry those things with you. And you know, oftentimes sometimes people put things in there that shouldn’t be in there and that could be, you know, perspectives that hold you back or limit you. And you know, if you don’t stop to remove the things that were never yours to begin with, they start to become weights that weigh you down. And I think it’s just a, a cool, a way to put into perspective what you’re saying. It’s like we have to empty our backpacks and be opens to perspectives.
Dave Barrett (08:25):
Sam. I love that. I, I think that’s brilliant. I’m actually gonna steal it from you. I’m really big on R and D Rob and duplicate. Nice. I love that cuz that’s exactly what happens. And I, I see it too often. I got into a a discussion with a student who was certain, he wasn’t allowed to go into the skilled trades because he was on the university pathway. He said, no, no I’m only allowed to go to university, but he truly believed that. So then we have to talk about, and that was a perception that he was carrying in that backpack that you talked about, that we needed to say, here’s the real information. And here are the opportunities for you. We’re not saying don’t go to university. We’re saying all of the pathways are open to you. It’s up to you to figure out what’s gonna get you to where you want to go next.
Sam Demma (09:06):
Love it. Absolutely love it. And if you were to try and con you know, not convince, but trying to educate students about the upper opportunity that exists in, in the trades, like how do you paint them that picture? You know, go ahead and paint that picture now.
Dave Barrett (09:20):
Oh, I’m gonna give you the two minute version then. All right. So the first thing I talk about is in the skilled trades is the money. So when you become a registered apprentice, you have to be paid. There’s no free apprenticeships. So you have to be paid in a block release situation. You’re going to be paid for about a year. Then you’re gonna get a letter in the mail that letter’s gonna say, it’s time for you to go to trade school. Most trade schools are at community colleges. You’re gonna pick the college that you wanna go to. So if aunt milli lives in Ottawa, you can say, I want to go to the Ottawa college that offers my program, cuz I can live with aunt milli for nothing perfect. You don’t apply the ministry of labor training and skills development phones. The college buys your seat and pays 90% of your tuition.
Dave Barrett (10:04):
Most apprentices pay about $500 whenever they go to trade school, wow, you finish trade school. You go back to work. The interesting part is, before you go to trade school, you’ve been working for a year. You qualify for employment insurance. So right before to go to trade school, you and your employer will go to the employment office. Your employer will lay you off. You get fast tracked onto employment insurance. So you get paid while you’re going to trade school. And if you need it, there’s living allowance. There’s mileage allowance and there’s childcare allowance. If you have to put kids in daycare in order for you to attend, this is usually the part where I see parents elbowing their students going. You should look at this. So this is the way apprenticeship works. Block release. There’s some other ones where you can continue to work. And then you go to school in the evenings.
Dave Barrett (10:50):
And one Saturday, a month, my nephew did one where he worked the first three, four weeks of the month. And then the last week of every month, he went to Trey aid school. So there’s variations, but most of them are like that. So this is an opportunity for students to get in. And if you read the papers and the statistics, there is a skilled trade shortage and this isn’t just Ontario, Canada, north America. This is a worldwide issue. So if you wanna stay local in the skilled trades, you can, if you wanna, and locally, you can do that. If you wanna see your country, you can do your skilled trades and your ticket can get you across the country. If you wanna go international, skilled trades can get you there as well. So it opens all kinds of doors. And again, it’s one tool. And the argument that I always talk to students about is if you wanna argue with me on smarts, wages knowledge, and you think someone with a university degree is better than someone that has a college diploma is better than somebody that has a, a journey person license.
Dave Barrett (11:48):
I can win the argument in every direction, whether you wanna talk on wage. I know people from university with university degrees that are the smartest people that I know. And I know people with university degrees that are like talking to a bag of hammers. well, it’s the same in the skilled trades. Yeah. I know skilled trades people. Yes. They didn’t go to university, but they’re some of the smartest people you’ve ever and they’ve put in the time to really know their craft and they make all kinds of money and they love what they do. And that’s what I talk to students about is don’t go into this for the money. Don’t go into it just cuz I’m talking to you like that, go into it because you have a passion for it. And if you ask me which one I should get into, I’m gonna correspond right back and say, what do you wanna try next? Cause if you spark an arc and go welding it let’s talk. If you spark an art and go, I hate this. Perfect. Now, you know, don’t become a welder. Let’s go try something else until you figure it out. So there’s my two minute pitch for the skilled trades.
Sam Demma (12:45):
I love it. I love it. Right. It’s the idea that generalizations aren’t okay. It’s like, you know, there are people in the trades who are brilliant. There are also people in the trades who Aren, there are people in university who are brilliant and there’s people in university who are brilliant. exactly.
Dave Barrett (12:58):
No, but it’s perceptions, right? It is. And, and it’s this hierarchy that we’ve somehow built for ourselves. And, and I, I disagree with it and it’s really fun to disprove that I don’t have to pick on anybody, but it’s very easy when we talk salaries, when we taught knowledge. One of the things I just added two years ago to my presentation is science, technology engineering and mathematics. Stem is huge in education right now. Well stem, the skilled trades is where stem hits the road. Cause if you don’t understand OMS law and boils law, you’re not gonna do well in the skilled trades, particularly in welding and electrical engineers are the ones that draw the drawings who takes those drawings and actually builds them skilled trades people. They have to understand engineering, mathematics, PHA, and theorem. Oh, they used to throw that on the chalkboard.
Dave Barrett (13:46):
And I go, oh, when am I ever gonna use this in my life? Become a carpenter. That’s how you square wall 3, 4, 5, come on man. That’s and it’s just making those connections that you can actually do it. So that’s, you know, mathematics, perimeters volumes just had a friend of mine complaining about the, they had to completely redo their plumbing cuz their plumber couldn’t do the math. It’s important that you know these things and it’s not for somebody that doesn’t do well in the classroom. They have to understand what they’re getting into. And one, they have the passion, the math, the engineering, the science technology all makes sense. That’s awesome. Plus we use really cool equipment in the skill trades like
Sam Demma (14:24):
Yep. I’ve heard stories even in my own high school of kids repairing a teacher’s car and then getting to drive around the block. And that? Not that this is what happens
Dave Barrett (14:32):
Everywhere. No, they, oh no, that never happens. But yeah, exactly. You know, and the in it’s really cool. Like I looked, I visited a training center locally and they had what were called dark rooms and inside the dark rooms were mill rights and boiler makers who were operating robots inside nuclear vaults, I’m going and they had to be skilled trades people in order to do this. So you’re using the coolest equipment and their supervisors were flying drones around to do the inspections. I mean, what a great, you know, so gaming skills when mom and dad said, Hey, your gaming skills will never Mount to anything, get into the skilled trades. You might just find out they will
Sam Demma (15:08):
Buy some drones.
Dave Barrett (15:09):
exactly fly drones, working robots, real ones. Yeah. It’s kind of cool.
Sam Demma (15:13):
So how did you get into this position? Tell me more about your journey through education yourself. So
Dave Barrett (15:19):
I like, as I said, I was I was working in community economic development and I did, you know, again, I got bored after I was there for 12 years, but I started to do a lot of work with my, a local school boards. So the person who was in the Ontario youth apprenticeship program position was retiring and I’d done a lot of work with her and she said, you should apply for my job. And I’m going look at my resume. There is no way, but I applied anyway. And I had worked with some of the people that were on the hiring team and they said, yeah, let’s take a shot. And that’s worked out really well. So I’m actually not a teacher. Mm-Hmm I come to the position from industry, but I’ve worked in the auto industry, construction industry. I, you know, did some work in manufacturing.
Dave Barrett (16:03):
So all of these things culminated in my position and I think it’s, I’ve got a passion for it. And again, you talk about percept, you come into it and I hear this kids today, baloney kids, they are more engaged. They’re they’re the same as I was when I was there. They just look funny. I look funny to the generation ahead of me. Yeah. They look funny to me, but talking with them and especially when they get a passion for culinary, we run a culinary program. It’s fun to talk to them cuz they know, know their craft and they can’t wait to get into the industry. And that’s, that’s what I love about this position.
Sam Demma (16:37):
Someone recently told me experience comes from age is, you know, is not true. It’s experience comes from experience. And I would also argue experience. Doesn’t also come from a paper, you know, sometimes it comes from experience and you know exactly the fact that you’ve worked in all the different, like various, you know, industries in the field that are the same fields that these kids are gonna get into, gives you the opportunity to give people a very clear picture of each and every one of them. Right. Exactly. And
Dave Barrett (17:05):
That’s it. I bring that, that perspective to it that I didn’t, I couldn’t read in a book or I lived it. So I, I can honestly say here’s what I experienced and here’s how I overcame it, whether I needed to overcome it or not. And, and I, I do think that is valuable. It’s, it’s interesting because in my presentation I actually took that piece out about my, my pathway and all the teachers said, put it back in. That’s the part where the kids went, this guy’s credible. Yeah. So I, I talk about my own faults, my own indecisions, my own bad decisions and my own good decisions. And, and through that they go, okay. Yeah. I, he still, he looks like he’s doing all right. And he’s still living his life. So carry on. Exactly.
Sam Demma (17:47):
Yeah. That’s awesome. And how do you approach a student who is in class and is, or who’s coming to you and, and telling you Dave? I have absolutely no idea what I wanna do with my life. like, I feel like that’s a common conversation you probably have with students.
Dave Barrett (18:02):
And it’s, I, I go back to what I said or what do you wanna try next? So have you been to my events? Have you tried? And, and if some of the things that we’ve created with our local partners is I shops are expensive to run. So they’re only in our high schools. So elementary students don’t have a chance to be exposed to them, but we live in a day and age where technology rules. So I’ve got welding simulators, I’ve got an excavator simulator, I’ve got all kinds of dexterity challenges. I’ve got robots and things like that, that we take into the elementary schools and we let those students try these things. And what I find cool about that is you see students who are, you know, not the athlete, not the academic, all of a sudden excelling in their grade seven, eight class.
Dave Barrett (18:47):
And they’re going, how, how do you know how to do that? Because they’re the hands on learners that have been building stuff since they were four, but this gives them the chance to try it. And once they try it, then we start having the conversations about what parts of, of skilled trades do you like. And, and that’s how we sort of build that model. So when I have the conversation with students, it it’s more around, okay, how can I help you try some of these things? So I’ve, I’ve had, you know, you’re right. I, not long ago I had a student who wasn’t sure if you wanted to be a carpenter or a chef and I’m kind of going, okay, we have some work to do here, cuz that’s pretty diverse. Yeah. but let’s, let’s talk about trying stuff. And what is it you like about this and what is like about that?
Dave Barrett (19:32):
And then we built them from there and they’re actually in my level one cook program right now. Cause they that’s awesome. They kind of decide. And I said, at the end of it, if you, if you hate the level one cook program, you get the end of the day going, this isn’t for me. Perfect. Now, you know, didn’t cost you dime. You’re just gonna be stuck cooking Easter dinner and Thanksgiving for the rest of your life. But other than that, you can go become a carpenter. Now, you know, that’s it’s you got some great skills.
Sam Demma (19:56):
I, I try and here’s another thing you can Rob, maybe an analogy but I, I, I think of it like career search, like a buffet, right? You go to a buffet and you, you walk around, you take a little bit of everything they have to offer and you go sit down, you eat some of it. And certain foods you hate and you don’t grab that ever again. And other foods you end up loving and you know, you keep going back for those. And it’s like the same with trades, the same with jobs, any anything in life. It’s like, you figure out what you love doing, not by theory, but by doing the thing, you know,
Dave Barrett (20:28):
Consider that stolen. I love that’s you’re you nailed it. That’s a, exactly what it is, is keep trying stuff. And I, and I talked to the students that way. I said, your job is the students to try everything you can in the next four to five years, that’s your job. And then from there, you’ll sort of maybe figure it out and be honest. When you, when I talk about my career pathway, I was probably close to 30 before I kind of nailed it. Yep. Cause I’d done construction. I’d done healthcare. I’d done manufacturing. I’d done. These other things went, eh, no, no. Yeah. And then all of a sudden I got into community stuff and I went, Hmm, this makes sense to me. And then workforce development and guiding people to, to careers and helping my community grow. And I went, yeah, I really like this. And then that’s, that’s where I went from there. But it took a while to get there. Remind me, don’t be afraid of
Sam Demma (21:15):
That. Remind me how many years you’ve been in the OYAP position, helping students, you know, figure out different pathways.
Dave Barrett (21:21):
I just started my 10th year.
Sam Demma (21:24):
If you could go back to year one, knowing what, you know, being in this role for 10 years, what would you have told year, Dave?
Dave Barrett (21:31):
Honestly I would’ve said try more stuff, make more mistakes. Mm. Keep trying, keep trying I, some of the programs that came that we’re doing now that are really successful, I really wish I would’ve started them earlier. And a lot of them came from just doing so a good example. We had, we had young women’s events where I would get a couple schools. We’d, you know, they’d pick young women to get on a bus and we’d take them to different industries just to see what they were like. And I thought, well, geez, aren’t I hero? I had 40 young ladies on a bus and we took them into the auto industry, the agricultural industry and these different ones. We talk skilled trades. And then my colleague said, well, why don’t we just do this at their high schools? And that way they can all come.
Dave Barrett (22:18):
Geez. That makes sense. So we started doing young women’s nights where the students would come. We’d allow them to invite their favorite aunt, their mother, their, you know, best friend to come with them. And then we put them into the welding shop and then into the auto shop and we’d circulate them around. And all of a sudden we were having 80 and 90 young ladies trying to skill trades at nine of our high schools. And we’re going, okay, this is better. Well, that’s that kind of grew. But that only happened in the last, before the pandemic three years of the first five years, we weren’t doing it. So it’s stuff like that. Where I’m I like trying stuff. I don’t let the bureau bureaucracy get in the way. Let’s try it. We pilot it, make all of our mistakes and then run with it.
Sam Demma (23:03):
That’s awesome. Love that this has been a exciting conversation. It’s already been 25 minutes time flies in when you’re having a good chat. But if another educator is listening, wants to learn a little more about how they can encourage skill trades and their students, and wants to ask you a question, what would be the best way for them to reach out and get in touch with you?
Dave Barrett (23:22):
If you want to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Shoot me an email and I’ll respond. I’ll talk to anybody about skilled trades and events and share anything. I, I think these are great pathways. I don’t think they’re for everyone, but if you are interested in an event or how we do things more than happy to share.
Sam Demma (24:06):
Awesome, Dave. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Really appreciate it. Keep up with the awesome work and we’ll
Dave Barrett (24:10):
Talk soon. All right, Sam, thank you so much for the opportunity you take care too,
Sam Demma (24:14):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the high performing educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating view. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network. You’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.
Join the Educator Network & Connect with Dave
The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education. By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators. You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.