Jay Charleyboy says training from Okanagan College has allowed him to move ahead in the construction industry.

Jay Charleyboy says training from Okanagan College has allowed him to move ahead in the construction industry.

Program creates opportunities

Construction craft worker aboriginal bridging runs from Sept. 12 to Dec. 16 at Okanagan College

With strong demand for construction trades workers, Okanagan College is offering a second intake of a program designed to help aboriginal students build job site skills, gain apprenticeship training and get on the fast track to employment.

Construction craft worker aboriginal bridging runs from Sept. 12 to Dec. 16 and it will cover a variety of topics, from trades math to carpentry skills to workforce training certifications. The program is designed to benefit students with limited construction experience or those looking to refresh or enhance their skills. The program is tuition-free and includes work boots, bus passes, group study sessions, cultural activities, volunteer work experience and job search skills to remove potential barriers and support success.

“Working with, and learning from, the indigenous community is one of the key directions in Okanagan College’s new strategic plan,” said Jim Hamilton, OC president.

“This course is an example of ongoing collaboration with our local bands and First Nation communities, employers and the province to provide training that is responsive to the needs of industry and highly supportive for our indigenous learners.”

The B.C. 2025 Labour Market Outlook predicts there will be about 123,000 job openings in trades, transportation and related occupations in the province over the next decade.

Building on the success of the first in-take of the program, the College, Westbank First Nation, and B.C. Hydro will offer a number of additional supports for students.

Students enrolling in the course this September will once again receive one-on-one training and support from a dedicated aboriginal peer mentor.

“Mentorship is an important element of the program,” said Hamilton.

“In addition to learning from experienced instructors and employers like B.C. Hydro, students also get to work beside a recent graduate who can share some insight into how to put their best foot forward in the industry.”

Randy Weatherbee, an Okanagan Indian Band member, was among the dozen students who completed level one earlier this year.

Shortly after, he landed a job as a construction craft worker with WIBCO construction, a First Nations construction company based in West Kelowna.

Weatherbee is now working on the new WFN Youth Centre, only steps away from the WFN Community Centre where he and his fellow students were recognized for completing the program.

“I was looking to change careers and so the program gave me the opportunity to learn a lot and gain some valuable certifications in a short time,” said Weatherbee, who worked in information technology for 15 years prior to enrolling.

“Many of the other students had some construction experience but it was all new to me. The program is fast-paced and focused on skills that employers want to see on the resume. It helped me get a foot in the door in the industry.”

Jay Charleyboy graduated from the program with Weatherbee and now works alongside him at the WFN project site.

A member of the Ulkatcho First Nation in the Chilcotin, Charleyboy says the program has helped him advance his career in the construction industry.

“I’ve been in construction for a long time, but the program was a great way to relearn skills,” said Charleyboy, who after earning his occupational first aid level two was hired on as the construction safety officer and first aid attendant for the project.

“There’s a ton of hands-on training, from carpentry and joinery to pipelaying. The course has helped me get into the industry again, refreshed. I’m excited to keep learning, keep building my career, and keep building a better life for myself and my family.”

More information about the construction craft worker program is available at www.okanagan.bc.ca/trades.