The pilot project is made possible thanks to funding from the Bell Let’s Talk Post-Secondary fund, supporting post-secondary student mental health programs.
“We’re incredibly grateful for this funding, which will allow us to move forward with this innovative support plan,” said Mez Jiwaji, NIC associate director, student life. “We know having strong mental health supports, tools and resources are key to student success, while they are in their program and when they graduate into the workforce.”
The pilot project will focus on Trades because of the unique opportunities and challenges in the industry. A 2022 BC Coroners Service report found more than half of the employed people in the province who died of an overdose worked in the Trades sector, and the most recent WorkSafeBC stats show mental health claims rising steadily in recent years.
“The Trades like many sectors are seeing the opportunity to recognize health and wellbeing priorities of students and apprentices,” said Cheryl O’Connell, dean of trades & technology. “Our goal is to offer self-directed support and resources of value to establish and maintain a strong foundation of good mental health practices as students pursue their training and enter the sector. These being resources which can serve them as they move through their apprenticeship journey and become future mentors and employers of the next generation of students.”
The program will involve a multi-headed approach with resources for both students and employees and a dedicated facilitator to be trusted contact for students who need support or have questions. There will also be a focus on building a network of support among the students themselves, so they have people they can turn to for support when they are out working in the industry.
Sierra Gale has been hired and will began in the new role of Healthy Students Liaison on May 1.
“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the trades students at NIC through the scope of this project,” she said. “I think we have a unique and exciting opportunity here to think differently about how best to support trades students and faculty in a way that works for them.”
The first steps for Gale will be connecting with students, faculty and support staff at NIC’s campuses to determine the need and develop an approach strategy.
“It’s very important that this is approached based on student feedback and engagement,” said O’Connell. “It’s about being responsive to, and consulting with students and to work together to identify needs, challenges, and opportunities with a focus on personal well-being.”
The pilot project is set to run for two years.
“We’re very excited to be able to get this project underway and we hope to expand this work to serve more students in future years,” said Jiwaji.