Okanagan College is bending its metal fabrication program to fit the times.
Students interested in entering the lucrative field of metal fabrication can now get working in the trade faster than ever, thanks to changes made to the training program available at Okanagan College.
Starting this September, the college has redesigned its metal fabrication program to allow students to obtain the equivalent of Level 1 training in 23 weeks, without the need for any prerequisites.
“With this new program, plus the experience they’re going to have with our state-of-the-art technology, students are going to get much of that first level apprenticeship work experience they need, right here in-house,” said Dean Nutter, chair of the college’s welding department.
“This is going to make it far more attractive for employers to take on our students as apprentices,” he said.
Demand for metal fabricators is rising throughout B.C. and in Alberta, as the economy continues its turn-around, Nutter said. The challenge has been to try and match up students with apprenticeships in the industry.
“We’re in a boom,” Nutter said. “I’m getting calls every day from people looking for metal fabricators – from the B.C. Interior, up north, even in Alberta.”
One of those continually on the hunt for skilled workers is Graeme Jenkins, plant manager at Enterprise Steel Fabricators in Kelowna.
The 30-year-old company works in the specialized field of high pressure vessels used in the oil field, with contracts with companies located in northern B.C. and even China.
“It’s hard for us to get access to the younger experienced guys,” Jenkins said. “With graduates from this program, we can set them up in good stead, and help them move through their apprenticeship if they want to look for work later up north.”
Nutter said metal fabricators are at the heart of virtually any industry – from shipbuilding, to mining, to building substations for the oil industry, or building car parts for the automotive industry.
“Metal fabrication is really where industry starts,” Jenkins said. “People who are mechanically inclined, and are good at interpreting from drawings, do well in this field. There’s a bit of an artistic bent, because they can see something and then use their mechanical ability to create what’s on the blueprint.”
The program includes foundational training in welding, plus hands-on experience working with computer software equipment recently installed at the college that assists workers in making precision cuts.
“We now have some of the newest equipment being offered in a B.C. college,” Nutter said, pointing to the college’s investment into a computer software driven brake press and bandsaw, along with a plasma burning table.
The program also prepares students for the work environment by offering some of the softer skills employers value – such as communication and instruction in health and safety standards.