A collaboration between three local companies and Okanagan College has given trades students a new cutting-edge natural gas lab.
John Davina of KalWest Mechanical Systems Inc., Rob Jemson and Shawn Campbell of Midvalley Sheet Metal and Mathieu Pastinelli of British Columbia Safety Authority donated their time and talent to help create an industry-ready training space for Plumbing and Piping Trades students at the College.
Located in the mechanical trades shop on the Kelowna campus, the 1,500 square-foot lab provides hands-on training for students to learn gasfitting and steamfitting techniques.
Part of the College’s $35-million trades complex renovation and expansion, the design of the brand new natural gas lab needed to utilize new and existing equipment. The creation of the space was originally assisted with a donation from FortisBC and the planning, layout and installation was led by Peter Csandl, Manager, Plant Services and Operations at Okanagan College and Davina, owner of KalWest.
“We are happy to be part of such a unique collaboration,” says Davina. “It was extraordinary to have so many partners bring their expertise to the table for a common goal. We all understand the importance of skills training and wanted to invest in the future of trades education in the Okanagan, and that’s what made this project a success.”
Davina, who has been an advocate of the College’s trades training programs and a guest speaker in classes, was the first to come on board to help create a layout that would work in the new space. Along with employees and instructors from the College’s Facilities and Trades departments, he reached out to industry partners for their expertise on the project.
Midvalley Sheet Metal was eager to jump on board and Jemson and Campbell donated their time and efforts to layout and install the lab’s high-efficient venting systems. Pastinelli, a Gas Safety Officer at BC Safety Authority, helped ensure the equipment and installation was up to code and field standards. According to the team, lending a hand to set up the lab will help students receive the best possible training and they see the positive impacts of that firsthand in the workforce.
“It’s a huge asset to the industry to have skilled labour come out of a world-class facility right in our backyard,” says Davina. “After 30 years in the industry, it is deeply rewarding to give back to the community by helping provide training opportunities for plumbers and gasfitters in the Interior.”
Students from both the Sheet Metal Worker and Plumbing and Piping Trades program worked on the project alongside Davina, Jemson, Campbell and Pastinelli. In addition, the College’s team of electricians also contributed to the collaboration by completing the work on the lab’s electrical systems and control interlocks.
“This new space is a win-win for the students and the College,” says Brad Oliver, Chair of Okanagan College’s Mechanical Trades program. “The lab provides our students an incredible example of the standard of workmanship they should strive for in their careers and it gave them the opportunity to work alongside and learn from industry experts in its creation.”
Since it opened in September 2016, more than 400 students have trained in the lab. Okanagan College trains more than 2,500 trades students annually.