Support from FortisBC is powering up a cutting-edge new space at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus, helping the College deliver training for a number of B.C.’s most in-demand trades.
A $50,000 donation from FortisBC assisted in the construction and outfitting of a new natural gas lab, located in the plumbing shop of the renovated and expanded Kelowna Trades Complex that officially opened last month. An additional $25,000 gift from the company will also help the College enhance the delivery of curriculum for construction carpenters and technologists in the Sustainable Construction Management Technology program.
“FortisBC sees giving back as an important part of our efforts to create a sustainable future for British Columbians,” explains Barry Smithson, Director Operations, FortisBC. “This partnership is a great fit for FortisBC, as Okanagan College trains students that could one day become our employees.”
The new lab will be utilized by students across the piping trades, and will allow the College to deliver all four levels of its new Steamfitter/Pipefitter apprenticeship program. Demand is mounting for Steamfitter/Pipefitters in B.C. (more than 1,100 openings are projected over the next eight years), and the arrival of LNG projects could spell even greater need. The first class of students recently completed Level 1 and the first offering of Level 2 began on Oct. 3.
“We are deeply grateful to FortisBC for this generous support,” says Steve Moores, the College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. “This donation is already having a direct impact on students. The new lab provides us with a state-of-the-art space to deliver the latest training.”
Over the past five years alone, Okanagan College has trained more than 1,200 Foundation and Apprenticeship students in the Plumbing/Pipefitting and Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic programs.
As part of the $50,000 donation, FortisBC contributed equipment for the lab – including state-of-the-art gas meters – and stepped in to assist local company Kal West Mechanical with the installation. The installation provided a chance for hands-on learning for Okanagan College students.
Tammy Rudrum is one of those students. A recent graduate of the Sheet Metal Foundation program and the Women in Trades Training program, Rudrum and about a dozen of her classmates helped put in furnaces which will serve as training tools in the new lab.
“I definitely learned some great practical skills that you can’t get from a book,” says Rudrum. “Hands-on experience is better. Everyone's furnace units are different, so it was interesting to see how things can be adapted.”
On top of the $50,000 for the new lab, FortisBC’s additional donation of $25,000 will soon generate further hands-on training opportunities for students.
Among other teaching tools, the funds will allow the College to purchase two calibrated blower doors to be used for training and testing. The doors demonstrate to students how different wall assemblies and construction techniques can reduce energy consumption by preventing air leakage. The resources will benefit students in the Carpentry and Sustainable Construction Management Technology programs.
“It is very positive for our students to see a major employer like FortisBC investing in their education,” explains Moores. “It shows them the industry need is real. It validates their choice to learn here and to pursue a career in the trades.”
Okanagan College’s new Trades Complex opened its doors to students in April and was officially opened by Premier Christy Clark and Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson on Sept. 22.
The three-year renovation and expansion project began with a $28-million investment from the province and has also seen strong support from donors in the community. The Okanagan College Foundation kicked off the Bright Horizons campaign in October 2014 with the goal of raising $5 million for capital construction and $2 million for student and program support to complete the project.
More information about the new Trades Complex and opportunities to support the campaign can be found here.