The Okanagan College kickstarted a new era with the opening of the Penticton campus’s new welding facility, one of the most advanced and sustainable in the province.
The new $2.2 million, 5,000 square foot facility can accommodate 16 students and one instructor. Previously, the college had to lease offsite facilities for its Penticton-based welding students to use during their instruction.
“Before this, we’ve always had to use off-campus lease space. So that could be in the Industrial Park or anywhere. It’s tough to find that kind of space. Now (we have) a dedicated, custom-built space that’s right here,” said Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship with Okanagan College.
Having the facility on-campus can make all the difference for prospective students. Perhaps no one can understand this fact better than a graduate from the program’s first year.
Penticton resident Randall Enns joined the program in its inaugural year in 1963, when it was based in Kelowna, and graduated in the Spring of 1964. According to Enns, the program at the time ran for 11 months but he was able to graduate in nine.
“Welding is really a great resource, with so many of thousands of different jobs in the industry. With the different levels of capability, they can make a fit so there’s just about a job for everybody,” said Enns, adding it will service more students in the South Okanagan.
In a typical classroom 16 students may seem like a small number, but Moores explains that for this popular trade program, space is everything.
“It’s a balance between offering quality instruction — if there were too many students in the class, the instructor couldn’t get around. Because this is very hands-on, the instructor needs to be able to supervise, so 16 is the ideal size,” said Moores.
Employers, including Brad Hard from Penticton Fabricating, and chair of the college’s welding program advisory committee, is also pleased to see the new space open.
“As an employer in this community, and someone who has been involved in watching the college’s welding program develop and change over the years, I’m excited that we now have this purpose-built facility to help train tomorrow’s welders and meet the needs of employers in the area,” said Harder.
The college began plans to erect this new building in 2016. The project took roughly 18 months from start to completion, with students beginning to use the facility on Aug. 20.
In addition, other students will have access to the new building such as the Women in Trades program and HVAC Foundation students. Even high school students can get an introduction to the trades through the Gateway to Trades program.
“We do a lot of dual-credit arrangements, so some of the students in the program currently are dual-credit students. We deal with all the school districts in the South Okanagan to make sure (their students) have options,” said Eric Corneau, Regional Dean for the South Okanagan-Similkameen.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit was also in attendance for the facility opening and noted how it will benefit the community as a whole.
“This is the college’s fastest growing campus, so the more services they’re offering, the more we can help local businesses grow their business. Our economic growth strategy is all about growing local business so having the opportunity for people to get training here is only going to bode well for local businesses in the region,” said Jakubeit.
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