KELOWNA - Inspired by their experience mentoring trades students nearly a decade ago, two long-time Okanagan College donors have come forward with a major gift to support the training of the Valley’s future carpenters.
Jim and Yvonne Lamb, owners of Vintage Design Ltd., recently donated $32,000 to assist the College with renovations to the carpentry shop at the Kelowna campus.
“I didn’t get here by myself,” says Jim Lamb. “I was able to learn my trade and build a business because people supported me and helped me learn along the way. And now I’m a firm believer that we need to invest in the next generation and ensure they know how to build it right the first time.”
Lamb has been helping students get hands-on training at the College since 2007, when he invited classes from the Residential Construction program to work alongside experienced tradespeople in the construction of two “Home for Learning” projects in the Village of Kettle Valley.
Students in the program worked under the supervision of their instructors and were mentored by Lamb, who served as the general contractor for the projects. Once the homes were complete, they were sold and the proceeds – more than $225,000 – were donated to the College and the Village of Kettle Valley to create awards for students entering the building trades.
Over the past decade, the Vintage Design fund has provided $17,400 in tuition credits to 10 students starting the Residential Construction, Plumbing, and Electrician programs.
“We are very grateful to Jim and Yvonne Lamb for their long-time support of students over the years and now for this generous donation toward the new carpentry shop,” says Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship at Okanagan College.
“In addition to the financial support, the time and knowledge they have invested as mentors through the Home for Learning projects are deeply appreciated.”
When the Lambs learned that the College was seeking support to upgrade its decades-old carpentry shop, they decided to roll the remainder of their award fund, more than $30,000, into a one-time gift that could have a big impact.
“Supporting higher education is so important in general but particularly in this industry, says Yvonne Lamb. “We hope this gift will remind and inspire others to keep passing on their knowledge and support to tradespeople-in-training.”
The College is currently upgrading several existing shops at the Kelowna campus to match the same goals for sustainability as the new Trades Training Complex going up along KLO Road, which is being built to achieve LEED Platinum standards, net-zero energy usage, and carbon neutrality. Updated Welding and Heavy Duty Mechanical shops are already in operation.
When doors open next spring, the new complex will provide room for more than 2,600 students to train each year—including approximately 260 FTE (full-time equivalent) Carpentry apprentices and foundation (pre-apprenticeship) students.
Local homebuilders and developers have shown strong support for the $7-million fundraising campaign. More than $435,000 has been committed from the construction sector, including donations of $100,000 from Wilden, more than $62,400 from Village of Kettle Valley, $50,000 from Team Construction Management Ltd., $10,000 from the Canadian Homebuilders Association – Okanagan, and others.
“It’s a great time to get into this trade and an important time for employers to support education so that we have a skilled work force going forward,” says Jim Lamb.
Demand for carpenters is expected to remain strong in the Okanagan in coming years. The province projects job openings for 2,346 carpenters in the region, placing the occupation at the top of the trades sector in terms of job openings, followed by Red Seal cooks, automotive service technicians, and electricians.
More information about the College’s new Trades Training Complex project and opportunities to support students is available at www.okanagan.bc.ca/campaign.