After 30 years as Thompson Rivers University’s welding instructor in Williams Lake, Bruce Jenkins is calling it a career.
Among many contributions to the school and community, Jenkins is part of the reason School District 27 now enjoys a great partnership with TRU through its Ace It Trades Program.
Jenkins, who lives at Rose Lake with his wife, Denise, was born and raised in Kamloops where he attended NorKam Secondary School before deciding to further his education in the field of welding.
He worked at a welding shop in Kamloops from 1980-90, while completing his apprenticeship at what was then the University College of the Cariboo (UCC).
After the shop he worked at changed owners, Jenkins decided to search for greener pastures. A chance encounter with two of his former UCC instructors completely changed his career path.
“They said: ‘Sit down. We’d like to talk to you,’” Jenkins said, noting he’d only been graduated from university for roughly a year.
“They said: ‘Are you interested in teaching?’”
Jenkins was hired for a five-month contract to teach a welding level C course, initially, before his contract was extended to teach a six-week continuing studies welding program at Dog Creek in 1991.
“I had to get my air brake license in order to drive this school bus that had been converted into a portable welding unit. It had six separate units and would run without being connected to power.”
That six weeks spent living at Dog Creek with 13 Canoe Creek students solidified Jenkins’ decision to become a teacher.
“I really was thrown into the fire without any previous experience teaching,” he said. “But when this job in Williams Lake came up I decided to take it. That was in January of 1991.”
Jenkins began teaching at the former campus site on Hodgson Road, before a new welding facility was constructed by Larry Patenaude for the program on MacKenzie Avenue. After 10 years at that location, the welding program moved over to TRU’s current location on Western Avenue in 2007.
Around 1993, Jenkins and former Columneetza carpentry teacher and trades co-ordinator for SD27 Gord Armour struck up a conversation in the area of trades.
“He approached me and wanted to know if we’d be interested in taking high school students into the welding program,” Jenkins said. “From that there’s now a fantastic relationship between the university and SD27.
“I guess they said we pioneered the high school program for UCC.”
TRU and SD27 now collaborate to offer an Ace It Trades Program for students in grades 11 and 12 wanting to begin their post secondary education in electrical, carpentry, heavy duty mechanical and welding trades.
“It’s been just a really great program for a lot of kids,” Jenkins said, noting even students from 100 Mile House come to Williams Lake for the program.
Jenkins also worked for a period of time as the TRU trades co-ordinator during his career.
His last day on the job was Jan. 29, 2021.
Taking over his position will be Williams Lake’s Tyler Baba — a former student of Jenkins.
“It’s great and TRU’s quite happy it’s a former student and it’s kind of all come full circle,” he said.
“I’m happy for him and it makes me feel good about being a teacher, that good welding instruction will continue.”
Jenkins said while he’ll miss working with students of all ages and passing along his skills and knowledge, he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife, children and grandchildren once the COVID-19 pandemic dies down. His hobbies outside work include camping, ATVing, fishing, snowmobiling and spending time outdoors.
“I think being a teacher made me a better person,” he said. “As my life evolved I realized maybe it was my destiny, and TRU was a great place to work for. Everyone there was always super helpful and friendly. Everyone worked as a team.”