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Skilled trades to university student: luck or courage?

Bonnie Watt (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 11 July 2016




The purpose of this paper is to examine participants’ experiences as they transitioned from the skilled trade labor workforce to the school teaching profession. Their goal was to work in the secondary school system as certificated teachers.


The study examined interview data from a 2014 to 2015 evaluation study of participants in the Career and Technology Studies Bridge to Teacher Certification Program in Alberta. Interview comments of 20 participants were analyzed.


Participants earning a bachelor of education degree countered their skilled trade habitus with adjustment to the university habitus, with support provided though the program and strong networks among the students. Individuals demonstrated resiliency, persistence, and optimism. The findings may have significance more broadly for a re-examination of university policies and spaces for non-traditional students.


The paper provides an insight into how a well-designed program provides opportunities for individuals to transition from the skilled trade workforce to university. Further, the paper contributes to the scholarly literature in the area of second-career teachers’ habitus, fields, and capitals.



Research funding support provided by Alberta Education; University of Alberta, Faculty of Education Killam Research Fund; University of Alberta, Roger S. Smith Undergraduate Student Award; Alberta Teachers’ Association AACES grant; and University of Alberta, Faculty of Education, Secondary Education Graduate Research Assistantship. Thank you to Don McPherson for his research assistantship. A shorter version of this paper was presented as a paper at the 2015 September INAP Conference, Ballarat, Australia.


Watt, B. (2016), "Skilled trades to university student: luck or courage?", Education + Training, Vol. 58 No. 6, pp. 643-654.



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