Ivan Watson/Special to the Gazette
The new Centre for Trades at Camosun’s Interurban campus was opened Thursday with a ribbon cutting ceremony led by B.C.’s advanced education minister Andrew Wilkinson and Camosun College president Sherri Bell.
With 80,000 square feet of learning space, the facility aims to build upon Camosun’s position as one of the largest providers of trades training on Vancouver Island, with a number of West Shore students targeted to pass through the new centre.
“It’s a beautiful new facility,” said Ivan Oxford, program leader for Camosun’s Nautical Training Program. “I think it sends a really strong message to industry that we are going to move forward to meet the demands of the future.”
The college currently trains more than 2,700 students each year in 20 different trades foundation and apprenticeship programs. The new building provides space for hundreds of additional students, significantly ramping up capacity on the South Island at a time when the demand for skilled tradespeople is growing.
“It’s increased the number of students we can have in this space twofold,” Oxford said. “We have two new modules that extends our capacity beyond current capabilities. One is for modelling oil spill response and how we would contain or clean it up. The other is an ice module that allows us to anticipate the needs of the arctic regions, we can build ice flows, icebergs, full concentration or pancake ice and do specialized polar navigation training. We are currently the only school in Western Canada with that upgraded capacity and that kind of training is an internationally mandated requirement starting in 2017.”
For nautical training students in particular, the building is able to combine a purpose-built simulation lab and classroom space for the first time, helping meet anticipated needs of industry.
Built to LEED gold standards, the building includes a new marine and metal trades centre to house welding, sheet metal, metal fabrication, nautical training, ship building and repair programs and a new mechanical trades centre to house heavy duty and commercial truck transport mechanics and automotive service technician programs.
“I think that new top-of-the-line technologies is what will really set it apart,” said Sara Wilson, a recent sheet metal graduate. “Students with hands-on experience will have a leg-up when they get into the real world.”
Oxford hopes that more local students such as Wilson realize the advantages of practical trades training provided right here on the Island. “I have so many students that come from around the Victoria region and say ‘we didn’t even know that Camosun provided things like nautical training or the other trades we offer. We’ve been over in Vancouver taking training, and we didn’t know that we could take it here in our own backyard.’”
The provincial government provided $30 million to construct the building while the Camosun College Foundation is embarking on a $5 million TRADEmark fundraising campaign to outfit it with the latest classroom materials and teaching technology.