B.C Advanced Education, Skills and Training Minister Melanie Mark assists heavy-duty mechanics student Kevin McNicol during a stop at the Okanagan College in Kelowna Friday.—Image credit: Alistair Waters/Capital News

New trades seats for Okanagan College

New NDP government announces $196,000 to add 46 more student spaces.

The new B.C. NDP government is picking up where its Liberal predecessor left off.

Continuing the focus on funding trades training across the province, new Advanced Education, Skills and Training Minister Melanie Mark was at Okanagan College in Kelowna Friday morning announcing an additional 48 trades training seats will be added at the campus in the high-demand areas of heavy-duty mechanics, plumbing and sheet metal working.

“We’re going to continue what the previous government was doing and if anything, ramp it up,” said Mark following her announcement.

During her stop in Kelowna, she said trades offer good-paying jobs, and they play an essential role in building strong communities and growing our economy.

And she added she heard directly from students how important proper trades training is to them.

Okanagan College is the second largest trades trainer in the province after BCIT in the Lower Mainland.

Mark’s announcement Friday means another $196,000 will be given to the college to add 16 more sheet metal apprentice seats, 16 more plumbing trades seats and 16 more heavy mechanical trades foundation seats.

The college now trains about 1,700 trades students a year at four of its campuses. The main trades facility is in Kelowna in the new trades training complex building hat opened last year. The province provided $28million of the total cost, with another $7 million raised through local fundraising.

“This (additional) funding (for trades seats) will create additional capacity in some of our most in-demand trades programs and will provide greater access to skilled training for nearly 50 people in our community,” said Jim Hamilton, president of Okanagan College. “Those students will be better prepared to enter the workforce and will do much to meet the labour-market demands of the region.”

There is high demand by employers for many trades occupations throughout British Columbia due to retirements and economic development.

“In-class training is such an important part of trades training. It lays the technical foundation for the skills apprentices learn in the workplace,” said Gary Herman, CEO, Industry Training Authority. “The Industry Training Authority is thankful for the additional investment the government is making towards ensuring the skilled trades industry continues to grow strong.”

Students completing their education and training in the trades will find job opportunities in the Okanagan and throughout B.C.

“It’s great for students to see this kind of investment being made in trades training because it is one of the fastest-growing industries,” said Kevin McNicol, a student in the heavy duty mechanical foundation program at Okanagan College. “Increasing funding for trades will provide more opportunities for students like me.”

The Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training is working to increase access to post-secondary education, including more access to apprenticeship opportunities at public post-secondary institutions.

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