OKANAGAN - With heavy duty mechanics in high demand across many sectors, a donor has stepped forward with a locally-inspired donation to remind Okanagan College students and would-be students that BC’s agricultural equipment industry needs more mechanics.
“Our company is very pleased to support Okanagan College in building a facility that is going to benefit so many people,” says Ryan Johnson, Regional Manager for PrairieCoast Equipment. “We feel it’s important to invest in the future of our industry, and tomorrow’s trades students are a big part of that future.”
PrairieCoast Equipment has pledged $50,000 toward the Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign in support of the new Trades Training Complex at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus. To the excitement of students and instructors, the first installment of the company’s donation arrived on four wheels.
The College’s Heavy Duty Trades shop now boasts a piece of equipment geared towards Okanagan industry: a farm tractor suited to orchard and vineyard work.
“We’re projecting about a 10 per cent increase in our technician workforce this year,” explains Johnson. “So we wanted to provide a piece of equipment that would really benefit and be interesting to students, and that also spoke to the need for skilled workers in our field.”
In the Thompson Okanagan alone, it is projected there will be a need for more than 1,000 new heavy duty equipment mechanics and operators over the next eight years—a need the College is well geared up to address following the renovation and expansion of its facilities. BC Student Outcomes data reinforces the demand; the annual Province-generated survey of recent post-secondary graduates shows that 100 per cent of heavy-duty apprentices from Okanagan College are employed, and at an average wage of $40 an hour.
“We’ve completely updated our Heavy Duty shop and added a 1,858-square-metre outdoor training space,” says Okanagan College Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship Steve Moores. “Support from local industry like PrairieCoast Equipment has played a big role in our ability to make those upgrades to the learning environment.”
The Okanagan College Foundation launched the Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign in October 2014 to raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support. Of the more than $5.8 million raised to date, donors from in and out of region have stepped up with $250,000 in equipment, from tractors to front-end loaders to collections of hand tools.
“Donations of equipment like this one by PrairieCoast also help us ensure that our students can familiarize themselves with a wide variety of vehicles they are going to encounter out on the job,” says Moores.
The new Trades Training Complex represents one of the College’s most ambitious capital projects, valued at more than $33-million and designed to meet the highest standards of sustainability and green-building technology. The provincial government has committed $28 million to the project.
Shops and classrooms have come online in the renovated areas in recent months but students will now have their first glimpse into the all-new three-storey, 5,500 sq. metre Trades Training Complex. Classes begin this week while finishing touches on the building progress. An official grand opening for the new complex is being planned for the fall.
The Okanagan College Foundation is endeavouring to raise about another $1.3 million to complete the project, the bulk of which will go towards funding for students to help increase access and support student success in trades programs.
To learn more about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved, please visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/campaign.
PrairieCoast Equipment is a BC- and Alberta-based company with eight locations across both provinces, including one in Kelowna. Another location is slated to open in Prince George later this