Eighteen months ago the province pledged $28 million towards the cost of overhauling the trades training facilities at Okanagan Colleges’ Kelowna campus.
On Wednesday, college officials, students, dignitaries and politicians were back at the campus on KLO Road being told the time had come to break ground on a state-of-the-art, three-storey building to expand the trades training department.
“The provinces investment in the renovation and expansion of the trades training facility at Okanagan College will provide a significant return for our students and employers and industry partners who rely on them Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton.
He said the new building will complete the work started shortly after the province announced its money in 2012. That work, to date, has included renovating and expanding the existing workshops, creating a large outdoor large workshop space for students and planning the new building.
The total project at Okanagan College will cost $33 million, with $5 million to be raised from industry donors. The work will enable the college to bring back hundreds of students currently studying at two off-campus sites in Kelowna.
When the new building opens in 2016, an estimated 750 traders students will be accommodated at the KLO campus, said Hamilton. Currently there are about 1,800.
With a growing demand for trades training in B.C, Hamilton noted that the number of OC trades students has more than doubled in the last 10 years.
The new 5,500-square-metre building, along with the expanded and renovated existing workshops, will not only add space to the college for more students, it will also allow OC to increase the amount of education it offers by expanding its hours to handle more students, said John Haller, the former dean of trades at OC who is now the development officer with the Okanagan College Foundation. He is leading the fundraising effort for the trades training centre project.
Both Hamilton and Haller said while work has been ongoing since the province announced it would fund the project over a three-year period back in 2012, much of the work has been done away from public view at the KLO Road campus. But that is about to change.
Much of the existing trades department, housed in an original section of the 50-year-old Kelowna campus building, will be be torn down to make room for the new building. It will front KLO and displace part of the existing parking in front of the college.
The new building will be built to meet the “Living Building Challenge” standard, the most energy efficient level in the country. The rest of the improvements have been built to a LEED platinum standard, say college officials.
‘(This project) sends a strong message about the importance of trades training and the value we place on our tradespeople,” said Hamilton.
In addition to the traditional shovelling of dirt by dignitaries, Wednesday morning’s event also included turning B.C’s Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk—whose wife also happens to be an Okanagan College graduate—loose behind the controls of a large backhoe. He used the large machine to shovel two large scoops of dirt for the others to pose beside.