KELOWNA - Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk joined faculty, staff and students at Okanagan College May 21 to officially break ground for the new $33-million trades training complex.
"Throughout British Columbia we are improving access and aligning skills training and education to match labour market needs," said Virk. "We are investing in facilities like the Kelowna Trades Complex so that we can make sure British Columbians are first-in-line for the one million jobs openings we expect by 2022."
The expansion will give the college more than 5,500 square metres of new space. Combined with recent extensive renovations of more than 5,100 square metres of existing shop and classrooms space, the project will create up-to-date facilities for other trade shops including auto body, RV service technician, carpentry and welding.
The project is the first of its kind in B.C. to transform a complex of its age, size and diversity into a modern learning space that is energy neutral. The project will be built to meet LEED Platinum standards, and a new three-storey tower has been designed to meet the requirements of the Living Building Challenge.
Trades-related training at the Kelowna campus has more than doubled over the last 10 years and the renovation and renewal project will
allow the college to meet current and future demands. Once completed, the new trades complex will accommodate up to 2,408 students and apprentices, including students that are currently accommodated at off-site leased facilities.
"The Province's investment in the renovation and expansion of the trades training facility at Okanagan College will provide a significant return for our students, and the employers and industry partners who rely on them," said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton. "It sends a strong message about the importance of trades training and the value we place on our tradespeople. Our students and apprentices will benefit from a state-of-the-art learning environment that will set the bar for sustainability in trades training facilities in the region."
"The new trades complex benefits students," said Kelowna Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick. "It means that more than 2,400 students and apprentices will be able to get the skills training onsite in a brand new, modern facility."
"Choosing a trade is a very smart choice, offering a secure, rewarding and respected career - and our support for Okanagan College is helping learners become earners," said Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson.
The provincial government is providing $28 million toward the total cost of the project, with Okanagan College raising the other $5 million. Project completion is on track for spring 2016.
It is estimated that the new trades complex at Okanagan College will result in more than 200 direct and indirect construction jobs.
Projections show a million job openings by 2022 with about 43% requiring skills and trades training. As part of B.C.'s Skills for Jobs Blueprint: Re-engineering Education and Training, over the next three years, British Columbia will invest $185 million in capital projects such as the new Okanagan College trades complex to support trades and skills training.