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Province ponies up $28 million for trades facilities at Okanagan College
The B.C. government is providing $28 million to expand and renovate trades training facilities at the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College.
Advanced Education Minister John Yap made the announcement in the auto shop at Okanagan College Friday morning, saying the money, part of B.C.'s Jobs Plan and its Skills and Training Plan, will help the college educate hundreds more trades students by the time the project is complete in four years time.
Okanagan college, which currently has 2,280 trades students—2,000 of whom are at the Kelowna campus—is now the second biggest trades training institution in B.C.
Yap said the new facilities, double in size to what is now available, will help welders, heavy-duty mechanics, electricians, plumbers and other skilled workers get the training they need.
The Kelowna Trades Complex renewal project will create a 6,264-square-metre expansion to the existing facilities, and renovate 4,385 square-metres of existing space. The expansion and renovation of the heavy duty and commercial transport building will add 260 square-metres of shop space and 306 square-metres of storage and ancillary space, and include three 20-seat classrooms.
"This exciting expansion and renovation project will provide a modern, spacious and energy-efficient space where students and instructors can be assured of a high-quality, rewarding training experience," said Yap.
In addition to renovating the existing facilities—which date back to the earliest days of Okanagan College in 1963—the money will also pay for new space and all of it will be brought up to LEED platinum status for maximum energy savings. That alone is expected to save the college $220,000 in energy costs per year.
Once completed, the new trades complex will be able to accommodate up to 2,408 students and apprentices, up from the current capacity of about 2,280.
The project responds to a growing demand for trades-related training, said college dean of trades and apprentices John Holler. He said the college has had a proposal to expand and renovate its existing facilities in to the government for the last three years.
Haller said Kelowna campus trades training has more than doubled over the last 10 years, requiring the addition of two off-site leased facilities to accommodate its electrical and plumbing courses. Once the project is complete, students who now learn their trades at the two off-site locations will do so at the KLO Road campus. That is expected to add 750 students alone.
The resulting consolidation of all trades training on the Kelowna campus will save the college $245,000 in leasing costs for the off-campus space on Penno Road and Acland Road.
The total cost of the project is $33 million, with Okanagan College raising $5 million. Construction preparation will begin immediately, with a projected completion date of spring 2016.
The existing shops and classrooms will be fully renovated and retrofitted to modernize and better utilize the space. A two-storey addition will more than double the size of the complex, providing
needed student space and innovative classrooms for trades and technology programs specifically focused on skills development, training and upgrading.
"This $33-million project will provide much-needed revitalization and renewal for Okanagan College's Kelowna campus, creating additional capacity for students and apprentices in a building that will be a showcase for sustainability," said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton.
"Just as a decision 50 years ago to invest in trades training facilities here has had an immeasurable impact in this region, the decision to invest in developing this showcase for training will yield positive change and pride that can be shared by students, industry, the community, the college and government."
Last month, Okanagan College and the province announced how more than $550,000 in one-time funding will be used to offer skilled trades-related training in the region. The college expects to create 110 seats over the coming year, including training in mining, oil and gas-related supervision and safety, and green building design, among others.
Yap said B.C. taxpayers are providing more than $45 million for operations and student programs at Okanagan College this year, up from $25.1 million in 2005-06.
Counting Friday's announcement, the B.C. government spent more than $63 million on capital investments at Okanagan College since 2005, including the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation at the Penticton campus, and the renovation and expansion of the trades facility at the Salmon Arm campus.