The College of the Rockies is receiving over $109,000 in funding from the provincial government to open an additional 16 spots in their heavy duty mechanics trades program.
Announced by Melanie Mark — the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training — on Tuesday in Cranbrook, the funding is part of a larger $1.67 million commitment to add 562 trades training seats at 13 different post secondary institutions across BC.
The College of the Rockies Cranbrook campus is one of 16 stops at post-secondary institutions across the province for Mark, who was appointed to her cabinet position in the middle of July.
“I’m so delighted to be here in the East Kootenay,” she said. “A highlight of the visits is the opportunity to connect with students and have an understanding about how transformative education has been on their lives.
“The College of the Rockies offers thousands of opportunities to students here in this community to thrive and reach their potential at their homes, in their communities and in their workplace.”
Mark also used the announcement to tout the government’s recent decisions to cut student loan interest rates by 2.5 per cent and to eliminate tuition fees on adult basic education and english language learning programs.
Students who graduate from trades programs support local employers in high-demand industries such as construction, forestry and automotive services, Mark said.
“To the trade students, those of you who are with us today, please keep on crushing, building, rolling, smashing, repairing, hammering, lighting up your community,” Mark said. “You are the builders of our roads, our homes, our businesses, our schools and we need you to build a strong, sustainable and affordable economy.”
David Walls, the president and CEO of the College of the Rockies, said the funding will help bolster the already-strong heavy duty mechanical program.
“This funding allows another 16 individuals to receive training in one of our most in-demand trades programs,” Walls said. “Those additional students will become skilled tradespeople who can help to meet the labour-market demands of our region.”
The announcement inside Pinnacle Hall was made in front of media, College staff and students who are enrolled in the heavy duty mechanics program, like Destyni Basil, a member of the Ktunaxa Nation and a former councillor with the Lower Kootenay band.
She will be working at the Line Creek coal mine with Teck Coal and said the program had changed her life.
“Enrolling in the heavy duty mechanical program is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made,” Basil said. “It gave me the opportunity to start my career and provide a better life for myself and my daughter. It also allows me to be a positive role model for my daughter and also the people in my community and to this region.
“…Having the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training provide more seats in the heavy duty mechanical program will allow even more students in this region to have the same opportunities that I was given.”
Given that it is the middle of summer, there was little student activity in Pinnacle Hall, however, Jack Moes, the Dean of Trades, is looking to see things pick up once the semester starts.
“This will be a very busy place and it will be busy with people learning trades — in this case in automotive service technician and heavy duty equipment technician — and they will be having a great deal of hands on learning,” he said.
“To me, our trades and apprenticeship instructors are the pioneers of hands-on learning, which we now know is probably one of the most terrific ways to learn anything, but it’s been the model for trades training for some time.”
Outside Pinnacle Hall, construction was in full swing on a new $10 million trades training facility that is expected to be completed by the spring of 2018.