COLWOOD -- With demand for skilled labourers high across the province, a program in the West Shore is carving out time to expose middle school students to the industry early.

The Youth Discover the Trades program, which is hosted at different schools across the region, saw 60 Grade 8 students from Dunsmuir Middle School learning about the trades in classrooms at Royal Bay Secondary School Thursday. 

Through the program, students learn about three different skills: carpentry, metalwork, and electrical. Students will also try joinery and soldering in a project that finishes with the construction of a complete candle holder.

The program's coordinators say exposure to the trades is important for students before they reach high school, as they're still making career-based decisions and choosing their classes.

"There's a big demand for female workers, male workers, and we're seeing that the industry is changing where they're looking more for analytical kids," said Dunsmuir Middle School vice-principal, Glenn Bedard.

Bedard says all the trades are in desperate need of workers and that even more will be required in the coming years.

So far, the kids' reaction to the program has been positive.

"I like it," said Amanda, a Grade 8 student at Dunsmuir Middle School. "I feel like it's cool."

Hayden, who was enjoying the trades program, summed it up as, "You'll never know until you try." 

Meanwhile, Makayla, who says she would consider a career in the trades, had this to say, "It's really interesting how you get to build your own things."

The Youth Discover the Trades program is an annual event and is funded through grants from the Industry Training Authority (ITA).

On Friday, the program will see Journey Middle School students exploring trades programs at Edward Milne Community School in Sooke.