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After 40 years of hard use, Camosun College’s trades facilities will get a needed facelift and two new buildings from a $29.2 million provincial government grant.
Advanced Education Minister John Yap announced the funding on Thursday in the welding hall at Camosun’s Interurban campus. Yap and fellow B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong then had a quick, hands-on welding lesson.
“Students need to get the latest updated skills and training in demand today and in demand tomorrow,” Yap told a few hundred assembled students and staff.
“Camosun is the largest trades training facility on Vancouver Island. We want to make sure the facilities that are needed here are in the southern Vancouver Island.”
Seaspan’s $8-billion federal shipbuilding contract is playing a role in the push to develop more skilled workers in marine and metal trades, but the province also faces a looming skilled labour shortage.
“A highly trained workforce is the backbone of our economy,” said Camosun College president Kathryn Laurin. “We need to increase the number of people in college to get folks the right skill sets and into the workforce.”
Overall, the project will give Camosun Interurban 200,000 square feet of trades training space. A new 45,000 square foot building will house marine and metal trades, and a 35,000 square foot building will house heavy-duty and automotive mechanical trades. Existing buildings, built in the 1960s, will be retrofitted and refurbished.
The added space will allow about 370 more full times trades student per year, added to 2,200 now across 20 different fields.
Tom Roemer, Camosun vice-president of strategic development, said the college is fortunate to have land available – the new trades centre will go in place of Tillicum Lodge, a condemned building that has sat unused for decades.
Camosun will chip in $800,000 to the project and plans to issue tenders for design immediately. Roemer expects the buildings to open in late 2015, which should dovetail with the ramp-up of federal shipbuilding, but noted that marine and aerospace companies, such as Seaspan and Viking Air, need people now.
Malcolm Barker, vice-president of Seaspan Victoria Shipyards, said the shipyard has two major long-term contracts, overhauling navy submarines and frigates, even before taking on federal fleet replacement. The shipyards employ 116 apprentices from Camosun, and has a 1,000 workers on job.
“This recognizes that shipbuilding is important in B.C.," Barker said, referring to the new trades training facilities. "The province is saying the industry has a future. It’s a telling point for us, and we need an educated workforce.”