College receives skilled trades funding

Advanced Education minister in Cranbrook to announce half a million dollars in support for COTR and Selkirk College.

Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson made a stop in the Heavy Duty Mechanics department of the College of the Rockies on Friday afternoon. Wilkinson (far left) was joined by other COTR officials

Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson made a stop in the Heavy Duty Mechanics department of the College of the Rockies on Friday afternoon. Wilkinson (far left) was joined by other COTR officials

The College of the Rockies and Selkirk College are receiving just over half a million dollars from the provincial government that will go towards trades training equipment.

The funding, announced by Advance Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson, will help support students entering in-demand occupations that are critical to the Liberal government’s economic platform.

“Our investment in trades training equipment supports a highly-trained workforce,” said Wilkinson. “Students in trades programs at the College of the Rockies and Selkirk College are getting hands-on experience that employers need.”

Wilkinson, MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena, toured the Pinnacle Hall at the COTR campus in Cranbrook before making his address in front of staff and students int the heavy duty mechanics program.

COTR will receive $325,274 that will go towards an air dryer and heat exchangers for industrial mechanic and millwright programs, a wheel aligner for heavy mechanical trades and an oxyfuel cutter for welding students.

Selkirk College will get $315, 428 in funding that will go towards equipment such as an industry-standard drill press for the millwright program, a Lab Volt renewable energy trainer for the electrical program and an air conditioning trainer for heavy mechanic trades.

“New equipment provides College of the Rockies with the opportunity to help students get the necessary experience and skills to get started on their careers in high-demand fields,” said David Walls, COTR president and CEO.

The funding also complements the additional trades training spaces (32) at COTR and (54) at Selkirk College, which was previously announced in July 2014.

“Sectors critical to our economic growth—such as oil and gas, mining and forestry—need workers to graduate job ready,” said Kootenay-East MLA Bill Bennett. “New trades training equipment at Selkirk College and the College of the Rockies gives students hands-on experience with tools currently used by these industries.”

The money itself stems from the Skills for Jobs Blueprint commitment of $185 million over three years for trades-training infrastructure and equipment at at public post-secondary institutions.

“This is all part of our plan to address the 1 million positions that will be becoming open in the next 10 years in British Columbia,” said Wilkinson. “About two-thirds of those are related to retirement and the other third are related to new industries, population growth, new opportunities, including LNG.

“So you can see whether you end up working on a specific project or not, we’re investing in the talents and the abilities of British Columbians, because we want our young people—and sometimes not-so-young people—to be getting the skills they need to be competitive in the workplace.”

The Advanced Education ministry has a $1.9 billion annual budget, with funding commitments to 25 post-secondary institutions in the province. Each year, the government tries to allocated 10 per cent towards health disciplines and have been using that same strategy for skilled trades.

“We decided to, over time, get up to a 25 per cent quota there to put into career training and trades training. That still leaves 60 per cent-plus for general education, the professions,” said Wilkinson.

“We feel that’s a good balance because it recognizes the need for full-on trades training and makes sure that the people who we are seeing here today get the skills they need for tomorrow based on current equipment. “

It was the first time Wilkinson had been Cranbrook in his newly-minted capacity of Minister of Advanced Education as he took over the portfolio in a minor Cabinet shuffle last December.

“It’s a great facility, it’s wonderful to see this facility prospering the way it is and to see full enrolment in heavy duty mechanics,” said Wilkinson.