North Saanich high school creating links to the marine industry

Parkland Secondary's marine program looking for more connections in the community.

Teacher Kirsten Dibblee

Ask Taryn Bishop why she’s taking her high school courses through the Marine Program at Parkland Secondary School, and she points to her upbringing in Ontario.

“We moved here from Ontario,” explained the Grade 11 student, “so anything to do with the ocean is new to me.”

Bishop took to the west coast like a duck to, well, water. She enrolled in the school’s marine programs, learning the science behind the beach to the recreational opportunities along the coast.

“I’m really enjoying the environmental factors here,” Bishop said, adding she hopes to become a teacher one day.

Right now, her enthusiasm for the school’s marine program has her as a teacher’s assistant to instructor Kirsten Dibblee. Her own courses in the program are designed to use marine themes — from recreation to industry — to teach everything from math and science to physical education.

Parkland’s Marine Program was one of the main tables at a Marine Employment Fair at the school on Feb. 25.

The gym was filled with booths, represented by various employers and community groups with direct and indirect ties to the ocean. The event welcomed students from School District 63 (Saanich) high schools. They were able to talk with the exhibitors and learn what it might take to find work in the industry.

One of those exhibitors was Brad Morrison, a joiner with Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards. He said he’s a small part of a massive company and he works out in Esquimalt. The marine construction industry, he said, is seeing an upswing in business in the wake of the federal government’s ship procurement program. Seaspan itself, he said, is not only working on the Canadian Navy’s submarine refit and repair program, but also will be refitting a pair of cruise ships in Victoria this year.

Morrison said he can give students an idea of the type of work the company does.

‘Today is about spreading the word about what we do,” he said.

For students looking to find a job, Morrison said they should be speaking with their school councillors and look into their training options.

‘Everyone’s different,” he said, “so they need to ask questions about the various options out there.”

Over at the Institute of Ocean Sciences table, Neziah Kahn and Greg Dixon talked about experimental projects and the types of work done at the centre.

“We’re here to explain to students what types of careers there are available and what they can do to get there,” Kahn said.

Dibblee said there are close to 100 students at Parkland enrolled in the Marine Program.

The school holds the fair, she continued, not only to let students see what’s out there, but to create more community connections.

“We are always looking for partnerships to give our students more experience,” she said.

Most recently, the school teamed up with the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club to provide repair work for their dinghies.

It’s hoped that these partnerships will enable Parkland students to find apprenticeship opportunities to help kick start their careers.