Vancouver on the Cheap: Trade School


If you were to create a Venn diagram where one circle was labeled “cheap” and the other labeled “awesome”, the middle point where they cross over could be labeled “Vancouver on the Cheap”. In other words, this is a weekly series on things to do and places to go in Vancouver that fall into that magical category of being both cheap and awesome.

Got a cheap-living tip you’d like to share? Send it in!

We’ve got a whole new world for cheap nerds entering Vancouver in 2013! It’s called Trade School, and it’s essentially learning for barter! This school model began in New York and has been expanding since then, giving people opportunities to teach and learn, exchanging goods and services instead of money.

I got to chat it up with Vancouver Trade School’s co-founder Matt Kump.

What is trade school?

Trade School is a non-traditional learning community in which students barter with teachers in exchange for instruction. Anybody can teach a class, and students sign up for classes by agreeing to bring barter items that the teacher requests. Trade School has hosted classes around the world on everything from Italian lessons in exchange for knitting lessons, to Basic Photoshop in exchange for a pound of coffee.

What inspired you to bring this to Vancouver?

When we first heard about the concept of Trade School, our first instinct was to find our local chapter and see what classes were available. It was honestly surprising that it didn’t exist in Vancouver, seeing as how our city is full of people willing and wanting to learn and share knowledge. Trade School eliminates the barriers of money and exclusivity, making education more accessible to everyone. Vancouver’s unique mix of backgrounds, communities, cultures, and knowledge bases makes our city ideal for both learners and teachers.

What kinds of classes can people look forward to from Trade School?

If you can imagine a class for it, it could exist with Trade School Vancouver! Past classes around the world have included making butter, swing dancing, making a website, composting, bike maintenance, intro to guitar, and so many more it’s hard to mention them all! We’re looking for people who are passionate about something to share that with their community. Roast your own coffee? Why not share some tips! Knit like there’s no tomorrow? Spread the love!

How do the barters work?

By teaching a class, you also get to pick the barters students bring in exchange for the lesson. You can choose a variety of things, such as sewing and art supplies, cooking spices, home made art, even singing lessons. If somebody wants to take the class, they choose a barter from the list and bring it with them to the class! If it’s something that is a service rather than goods, then they organize the specifics with the teacher after class.

How can someone get involved beyond taking classes?

We’re always looking for people to teach classes! Whatever you enjoy doing is worth sharing, and we’d love to have you spread your knowledge! We are also always open to partnering with local businesses and organizations to help us host classes or provide materials for events. If you are interested in learning more about partnering with Trade School Vancouver, you can email us at As an individual interested in volunteering with Trade School, you can email us at We will be looking for people to help us with hosting classes and being hands on for special events in the future.

What should someone interested in teaching a class do?

Head over to and click the link in the “Want to teach a class?” box. There you will get a form with a few simple questions to fill out, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible to get your class booked!

Why does Vancouver need something like Trade School?

Learning in Vancouver can be difficult for a variety of reasons, whether it’s the cost, limited selection, or even inaccessibility. Trade School Vancouver is trying to disrupt the idea of modern learning by removing formalities and injecting community. We can all learn from each other, we just haven’t really tried to yet.

What else do you want people to know about Trade School?

Anyone can learn. Everyone can teach. We celebrate practical wisdom, mutual respect, and the social nature of exchange. Trade School Vancouver is a place of learning, connecting, and sharing, and we believe that everyone has something to offer.

Trade School Vancouver is launching in the New Year, and they’re recruiting teachers! Check out their website for more info. Remember: teaching for barter builds community and is non-taxable. Not bad!