/Making connections to a career
Haliburton Highlands Secondary School student Sydney Christian works with a part before installing during her co-op placement at a residence in Haliburton. Sydney welcomes the opportunity for a career in the trades because of her aptitude for the work. /DARREN LUM Staff

Making connections to a career

By Darren Lum

The following story is the last in 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. 

There’s a lot of belief derived from doing.

Haliburton Highlands Secondary School’s Sydney Christian surprised herself throughout her hands-on training with her father learning about plumbing during her co-op experience.

Sydney is pragmatic about the career, saying money is a motivator for her desire to plumbing.

“It was kind of like they make good money and I have a good brain for it,” she said.

Her father Ed Docherty, who was subcontracted for the plumbing work clarifies his daughter is “mechanically inclined.” He adds she’s been helping him since she was 12.

Sydney Christian installs piping during her co-op placement. /DARREN LUM Staff

From the online job bank Indeed, the average hourly pay for a plumber is $34.62 in Ontario. Taking the four-credit co-op was part of her plan for a lucrative career, which will help fund her love of horses.

The Grade 12 student said the full immersion of hands-on training with her father was the best for her.

“It’s a good opportunity to get out of class and learn something you can use in life and get out there and get hands-on and do stuff that you need to know,” she said. 

Sydney learned about the tools and how to use them, the fittings and steps and techniques for installation, which varies depending on work sites. At a Haliburton work site, she learned how to install a shower valve and how to replace a water pump.

Her father believes the shortages in the trades could be alleviated by drawing more women like his daughter.

“We need more and they need to know they can do that,” he said.

He said the importance is also related to the changing world and that the market’s need demands it.

“There’s lots of work in the trades. Yeah, we’re starving for trades all over the place. My phone rings off the hook,” he said, adding he turns away about 50 per cent of his calls. 

Originally from Barrie, Docherty moved here 20 years ago.

Plumber Ed Docherty and his daughter Sydney Christian discuss the next course of action at a job site in Haliburton from a few months ago. Christian is a Haliburton Highlands Secondary School student who received hands-on training through her co-op placement. Her father said with the growing demand of trade work it’s important to train and empower more women to join the ranks. /DARREN LUM Staff

Before he started his own plumbing business about 10 years ago he was an employee of Stoughton Electric. He said Jason Stoughton provided him help to start his own business and he was busy right from the start.

He believes co-op offers students such as his daughter vital learning opportunities.

“It gets the kids out, so they can learn and see if they like it or not and see how it actually is out there. I think Sydney found it was a lot different than what she thought it would be,” he said. “Hopefully, she’ll stick with it afterwards and become a plumber too.”

The experience, she said, has given her a sense of empowerment regarding her capabilities.

Her comprehension about the relationship of the pipes, as far as where everything goes and how they fit together has grown beyond her expectations. It’s provided a feeling of achievement.

Sydney didn’t consider a career working with horses because of the poor potential for income and knew plumbing could offer an opportunity to earn enough money to own horses. Her family owns four horses, so she is aware of the expenses.

She said the valuable lesson she has taken from co-op, which is something she wants others to understand, is that experiencing something can help one believe they can do it.

The 17-year-old said from doing the work “that I can try and I can [achieve].”

Update: Sydney continues to work with her father while attending school and is enrolled in the mechanical trades dual credit program, which provides her an opportunity to earn college and high school credits while developing her plumbing skills.