Electrical program grad Amanda Hodgson speaks at opening of new Trades Training Centre at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus (Pete McIntyre/Beach Radio photo)
It’s a milestone day for Okanagan College which opened its new Trades Training Centre at its Vernon campus.
The 6.2 million dollar facility located in the forming parking lot area east of the main campus, allows students to train for careers in welding, carpentry, electrical, plumbing and pipe-fitting.
Amanda Hodgson of Armstrong is a graduate of the electrical foundation program, but she first enrolled at OC to become an elementary teacher.
“But life happened. I moved away for a little while, and upon returning to Vernon, I decided to pursue a trade rather than completing my teaching degree. I knew the trades would be in demand and that more education and hands-on training would only lead to more opportunities in the future,” Hodgson told the opening event.
Hodgson took her classes at the old training site at the Vernon airport.
She says having the facility on campus allows students to access the library and other resources, and to be a part of the college community.
College president Jim Hamilton says one of his goals when he started 14 years ago was to provide trades training around the region.
“So we now have trades training facilities at every one of our four major campuses: Salmon Arm, Penticton, Kelowna, and of course, now here in Vernon. So I think that’s worth celebration,” said Hamilton to applause from those on hand.
The centre will house the college’s Women in Trades training program. It will create space for specialized programming, such as Gateway to the Trades initiatives tailored to Indigenous communities and employers in the region. These programs provide women and Indigenous learners with outreach, mentoring and leadership development to promote careers in the skilled trades.
Ken Dahlen from Keith Construction told the opening event, the 150 spaces will also help businesses.
“There’s a real shortage of new employees and trades coming into the industry, so we felt it was very important to step up and assist and help bridge the gap, because we feel training is the only to get new employees.”
While senior governments provided most of the 6 million dollar cost ($2.8 million from province and $2.6 from federal), the college raised over 800-thousand dollars through a fundraiser, with any left over funds used for scholarships.
Gary Herman, CEO, Industry Training Authority, says a modern trades training space is a sure way to prepare British Columbians with the right skills and knowledge for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
“Investments in advancing trades training are so important. By offering programs that support trades training for Indigenous peoples and women, more opportunities will be created for them to pursue rewarding careers in their communities.”