Canadian Woodworking

Stem2Stern – Introducing trade skills to kids and youth

Author: Chad Martin
Photos: Stem2Stern
Published: June 2024

There is a growing demand for people in the skilled trades, and I can imagine that many of us would like to see more young people realizing the rewarding nature of working with their hands.


Across the country teams of volunteers are working side-by-side with schools to offer a glimpse into woodworking and its potential as a career. One such program in Southern Ontario is Stem2Stern (S2S), founded by David Vine.

Before starting S2S, David ran youth programs for First Nations, Metis and Inuit students through the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, for elementary students from the Thames Valley District School Board, and for in-risk grade 10 students with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority.

All of which culminated in the S2S community organization. As a father, a teacher, and a woodworker, David has spent a lot of his life boating, which inspired the program.  Vine founded S2S in the summer of 2018 after a lifetime of educating young people in the craft of woodworking. David understands the value of an exposure to the trades in rounding out the life experiences of today’s young people.

“Our main project is a wooden rowboat, where the students build the boat over a 30 hour five-day period. They also carve the wooden oars. Over the course of one school year, we will build close to eighteen boats and then launch them ceremoniously on the same day in a board-wide regatta at the rowing club on Fanshawe Lake.” says Vine. David is responsible for both training the participants in the construction of the wooden boats and working with funders and other support groups who help launch the boats once completed.

Since building a boat can be time consuming for some students, S2S has begun offering a variety of more compact programs which include building Muskoka chairs, small tables and tool boxes that can be completed in a single day. Each program focuses on skill development and the rewarding feeling of working by hand. Students learn a variety of skills working with power tools (drills, routers, mitre and jig saws) and hand tools (including planes, clamps, hammers and caulking guns), all the while keeping a focus on safety and becoming comfortable with each tool.

Based out of a twenty foot event cargo trailer, Vine travels Southwestern Ontario working with upwards of 2,000 grades 7 and 8 students each school year. To date, the program is offered within the Thames Valley District School Board, the London District Catholic School Board and several Indigenous School Boards but is quickly expanding to other school boards.

After 6 years (3 or which have been full-time), S2S continues to grow and Vine has recruited volunteers to help deliver the programs. As more schools learn about the benefits that S2S has to offer, its popularity has taken off. Despite considering himself “retired” Vine is excited about the future potential and how he can help persuade students to consider trades as a first choice for a future career.

The goal of S2S is to reach more youth and continue growing the program. But without continued support from partners and the community that growth can’t happen. Beyond financial support, materials and tools are always in high demand. The support to date has been incredible and Vine hopes to continue building those relationships with the woodworking industry and community all with the goal of seeing Canada’s youth find their calling in the trades.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Stem2Stern Program, or providing support to the program, visit their website at or [email protected]

Join Stem2Stern at Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.



Chad Martin - [email protected]

Chad is the Community Engagement Director at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. He also runs his own woodworking business specializing in culinary and home decor woodworking.

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