Dignitaries formally unveiled the new Patterson Hall trades training facility with a grand opening ceremony at the College of the Rockies Cranbrook campus on Friday.
Melanie Mark, the provincial Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, opened the facility alongside David Walls, College of the Rockies President and CEO, a Ktunaxa elder, COTR staff, representatives from the Columbia Basin Trust and local politicians. Three daughters of Jim Patterson, the facility’s namesake and College founder, were also present for the for the ceremony.
The building is the result of a $11.5 million investment shared between the federal and provincial levels of government, Teck, the Columbia Basin Trust and the College of the Rockies.
“This building didn’t come out of nowhere,” said Mark, to a gathered crowd at the ceremony, “it came out of a vision and it came out of people coming to the plate, putting their money where their mouth is, and saying that we need tot invest in the 21st century and give students the building, the equipment and the facilities that they need to get those in-demand jobs.”
The facility features a state-of-the-art electrical concepts lab where computer technology will allow students to learn hands-on wiring techniques in a virtual setting. Other features include four classrooms and dedicated shop space for electrical and industrial mechanic students, as well as shared workspace for the heavy duty equipment technician program.
Patterson Hall has a capacity of 240 full-time-equivalent student spaces for electrician and industrial mechanic programs with the ability to grow for future demand.
“Thanks to the provincial and federal governments, and our community funders, this state-of-the-art facility will allow students to learn on the most cutting-edge technology, in the most supportive environment,” said Walls. “We’re giving our students the best education and building up a skilled workforce that will serve the needs of our communities and industry partners.”
Walls paid tribute to College founder James Patterson, who served as the inspiration for the name of the building after an entry from a student during a call for naming submissions.
Patterson’s daughter, Nancy Eckstein, said her father would be proud of how the College has grown since it was created as the East Kootenay Community College in 1975.
“He would feel incredibly honoured to have this beautiful building named Patterson Hall,” Eckstein said. “He would be overwhelmed with the many successful endeavours of the College of the Rockies.
Dad was an activist with three main passions: the labour movement, the environmental movement and access to education for all.”
Eckstein said her father channelled his passions towards the East Kootenay Community College following his retirement, which started with a phone call to former Premier Dave Barrett in 1971.
Four years later, the community college opened.
“He never saw obstacles, only opportunities,” Eckstein said. “When young people in this area said they could not afford to seek further education, he saw the opportunity. He would be so appreciative of the many people who have made College of the Rockies such a vital part of the Kootenays.”
The College current boasts an annual enrolment of 10,000 students in campuses across the region, 600 of which are dedicated trades spaces for programs such as carpentry, plumbing, welding and the heavy duty mechanics.
Rick Jensen, the board chair of the Columbia Basin Trust, said the Trust was able to help get toe project started with a $1 million investment last year.
“By increasing spaces, addressing demand from students and businesses, and providing state-of-the-art facilities, it [College of the Rockies] is solidifying its place as an essential asset to the region,” Jensen said. “I am proud of what the College is achieving and the Trust has been able to support this effort.”