By Darren Lum
The following is part of a series of co-op placement stories featuring Haliburton Highlands Secondary School students and area employers in Haliburton County. Open to Grade 11 and 12 students, the co-op program enables students to earn high school credits by integrating course curriculum with learning at a work placement.
Kaleb Pereira, a senior high school co-op student is looking to fulfill his dream to race in motocross, with a focus on the lucrative potential of a career in the trades.
The Grade 11 student, who likes the value of work, spent his first semester earning four credits to his Ontario Secondary School Diploma while receiving instruction and hands-on training on construction sites learning about drywalling, cutting and installing trim, ceiling installation, and installing sub-floor.
All these skills will set him on a path to a career that will help him fund his hopes to race dirt bikes.
“Right now, I want to make as much money as possible. I want to be a professional dirt bike rider,” the 16-year-old said. “I’m just training and racing. It can be a full time job, but not really.”
He adds, the reality for motocross racers is that a day job is needed to supplement income, which is the insight he gained after speaking with current racers. He’ll be starting as rookie classified racer. Next year, he hopes to take action to be a racer.
The teenager appreciated the diversity of skills he learned and the collaborative aspect of the work during his co-op experience last semester.
“I’ve [had] quite a few jobs and this one is a lot different, working with other contractors too. This [kind of] teamwork is the best,” he said.
There’s a certain satisfaction for him to be able to be self-reliant when it comes to inevitable repairs or renovation work that a house may need.
“I just wanted a little experience. Just know if I’ve got to fix something at my own house [I could do it],” he said.
Kaleb is not adverse to hard work.
In addition to school and the co-op, Kaleb said he is a cook at Sir Sam’s and runs his own landscaping business where he is capable of running equipment such as skid-steers and a dump box.
His heart though is in construction.
“I love it,” he said.
Among his other ambitions include a desire to get his license to be able to be a heavy equipment operator, which would enable him to operate vehicles such as bulldozers.
Although he enjoyed his time out of the class, co-op is more than just escaping.
“The experience – get out and have a real job and see what it’s like. If you think about trades, it’s great idea to get into co-op. 100 per cent,” he said, referencing what he likes about the program.
Carpentry is an area of work he is now considering after his co-op experience.
The greatest satisfaction Kaleb derived from his work experience with his mentor and contractor Caleb Campbell was to see the end result of his hard work.
“Just building and seeing how when the house first started to when it was finished and how amazing it was,” he said.
This wasn’t the teen’s first foray into the trades for a professional.
Before this experience, he helped his brother, who is an electrician with his own business based in the Highlands, Paradigm Electric.
Campbell was happy with Kaleb and sees a near-future working relationship.
“He’s already expressed an interest in potentially working together in the future and through the summer. We’re definitely going to continue to work with him to get paid and that sort of thing. So, yeah, I think it’s a great opportunity. I wish that I had done something like this when I was in high school, because it wasn’t until I was, you know, over 30 when I realized I wanted to work in trades and I enjoy this kind of work. So, kind of having an experience younger on in life is a very valuable thing,” he said.
Campbell is based in the Highlands and is a Victoria Street School graduate who decided to return home to make a life here. For the past three years, Campbell has been a contractor, which came from gaining a new perspective. He led an entirely different life just before his decision to work in the trades. From working as a project manager for Toronto Hydro, which was mostly a desk job, working as a contractor in the Highlands has been welcomed.
What he learned later in life is something he appreciates, but recognizes the value of getting a teen to realize this sooner. Campbell said he realized the trades were a viable option for a career instead of a “white-collar” job when his friend provided the opportunity for a change.
“I left my previous job and started working with him and then I was helping him with mostly project management, that sort of thing,” he said. “But, yeah, now, I’ve been doing contracting for three years. So, I’ve learned a fair bit.”
When employers and educators talk about ensuring the prosperity of the economy the idea of keeping young adults from leaving regularly rests with area employment.
Kaleb has dreams, but also recognizes the potential of making a life here.
“Who knows? Maybe I’ll stick around here,” he said.
Note: co-op faculty lead Jason Morissette said Pereira is back in class for this semester, but is already looking to do another four-credit co-op next year, which is likely going to include carpentry.