Okanagan College carpentry students on the construction site of Skaha Hills in Penticton. (Submitted photo)

Okanagan College carpentry program helping fill industry demand

A carpentry program with extra supports for Indigenous students is underway in Penticton

The residential construction industry is thriving in the South Okanagan, and a carpentry program with extra supports for Indigenous students is underway in Penticton to help ensure a needed supply of skilled tradespeople.

In addition to addressing the industry demand for carpenters, the program will support important skills development for the community. The class – that started this month – will be working with Greyback Construction to build a home at Skaha Hills, among the many K’ul Group projects underway to support economic development of the Penticton Indian Band.

READ ALSO: ‘Troubling’ financial report to effect change for Penticton Indian Band

“We are excited to see the program back in Penticton, it is a great program and provides a unique opportunity to work with our community partners to continue building capacity in a dynamic and growing economic sector,” said Eric Corneau, Regional Dean South Okanagan.

Noah Bower completed the Carpenter Foundation program last year in Penticton, starting the program at age 17. He said he was always drawn to the diverse work in the field.

READ ALSO: Okanagan College students show skill

“When I was in high school, I did a bit of electrician training, but found that you did the same thing over and over and over. It was repetitive. But with carpentry, you’re doing different stuff like pouring concrete, laying out staircases and putting up walls. It’s fun and something different every day,” he said.

As part of his program, Bower was able to obtain job site experience working on a house at Skaha Hills, which solidified his career path.

READ ALSO: Okanagan College offers path to the building trades for women

“It taught me a lot about carpentry and that I really like the work,” he said, adding that working with other professionals gave him a glimpse of what life after school would be like. “It showed me what to expect out of this industry.”

Bower, a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band, is confident in his career prospects. He is currently taking a two-week course to learn how to handle heavy mechanical equipment on the job site, diversifying his skills.

“I want to get all my trades tickets: electrician, plumbing and welding. I’d like to become a master of all trades and start a company that does it all, so you don’t have to call other companies for one project,” said Bower. “When you’re building a house, you have to call different trades, but I think it would be great to have one company that offered everything. I should be able to accomplish that with the help of my band.”

Four of the 11 students enrolled in the current intake are PIB members, and they received culturally informed supports including mentorship, Elder support, visits from Aboriginal industry speakers, assistance with math and English requirements and nutrition breaks. Those supports were funded by the Industry Training Authority.

“The Carpenter Foundation program has been a popular program in Penticton in recent years. The 2019 intake was set up to include a pathway to support PIB students to participate through the Key to Employment bridging program with Indigenous Community for Leadership and Development,” said Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship.

The next intakes for Carpenter Foundation are August (Kelowna) and February 2020 (Salmon Arm and Revelstoke).

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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