There’s no denying that Whistler is a great place to grow up. The recreation is second-to-none, the schools are excellent, it’s relatively safe (unless you include skiing and biking injuries), parents tend to know and look out for all of the kids, and there’s no shortage of role models or opportunities for kids to find their passion.
But while Whistler is a great place to grow up, the fact is that a lot of the kids that grow up here will one day leave for college or university and never come back. The cost of housing is part of it, as is the lack of diversity in career opportunities compared to the city.
That’s something that Whistler Secondary School and Whistler Blackcomb are working to change, engaging more teens through an internship program that teaches them more about the types of jobs and opportunities that are available in the resort.
People travel from around the world to live and work here. Keeping people here should be relatively easy.
Currently, Whistler Secondary is collecting names for its Peak Experience program, which provides Whistler Secondary Students with four credits after completing a roughly 100-hour internship at Whistler Blackcomb. Students can choose to work in food and beverage, rental, ski school or mountain safety departments, and will also get a ski pass for their efforts.
“It’s been really popular and many of the students that have participated in the program started working for Whistler Blackcomb after they were done,” said Whistler Secondary principal Bev Oakley.
An average of eight students participate every year, including interested students from Pemberton Secondary and Howe Sound Secondary.
Oakley says that internships are a growing focus for Whistler Secondary. In addition to programs like Peak Experience, they also allow students to propose their own internship opportunities. If a student is interested in learning about a career or industry, the school encourages them to write a letter to the owner or manager of a business.
“They almost always say yes,” adds Oakley. “Businesses here have been great over the years in sharing time with the students.”
Once a business has agreed to host an intern, the school’s guidance counsellor will contact the employer to discuss the internship project in more detail.
It’s too soon to tell whether internship programs like Peak Experience will keep more Whistler kids in Whistler for the long term, but it could influence students when deciding what to study after high school, while also giving them some valuable work experience they can put on a resume.
That’s a huge deal these days with youth unemployment for people aged 15 to 24 sitting about 50 per cent higher than the provincial average of roughly eight per cent. Kids need jobs, and especially good summer jobs, to help pay for education and training, and to eventually ease their transition out of the home.
According to Statistics Canada, over 40 per cent of young adults aged 20 to 29 were either still living at home, or had returned home after college/university. That’s up from 26.9 per cent in 1981.
The fact is, there are a lot of good and interesting jobs in Whistler, and there are more opportunities in a greater variety of fields than most young people think. Letting kids know what those opportunities are while they’re young could have a huge impact on this town with more young people staying and eventually taking on leadership roles in the community.
It’s easy to understand the allure of the city after growing up in a small town, but Whistler isn’t as small as it used to be. To be honest the city isn’t really a viable option either with the price of real estate in Vancouver actually outpacing Whistler these days. Unless people dream of living in an urban suburb or an overpriced condo, Whistler employee housing is a far better alternative.
All things considered, staying in Whistler is actually a pretty good option these days.
School PACs benefit from Gaming Grants
The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development completed its round of B.C. Gaming Grants last week (Oct. 29), including $11.7 million to school Parent Advisory Councils across the province.
All of the schools in Pemberton and Whistler received a share of that funding to use for special projects that benefit the schools and students:
Association Parent Ecole la Passerelle — $1,560
Myrtle Philip PAC — $4,860
Sea to Sky District PAC — $2,500
Spring Creek PAC — $5,820
Whistler Secondary School PAC — $7,680
L’association de parents de l’ecole de la vallee de Pemberton — $640
Pemberton Secondary School — $6,200
Signal Hill Elementary School PAC — $9,020
PACS can receive up to $20 per student, while District PACs can get $2,500.
Lottery tickets and gambling at casinos may not be great investments, but they do end up being a pretty incredible investment in schools with a total of $38,280 for local schools in 2012-2013.