Saturday, February 24, 2018

Camosun College receives provincial trades-equipment money

February 18, 2015 by Sarah Tayler, contributing writer

The BC government is funding three postsecondary institutions in the amount of $939,000 for trades programs equipment, including $400,000 for Camosun College, as part of the BC Skills for Jobs Blueprint initiative.

Camosun’s injection of funding will be put into devices such as virtual welding machines, a refrigeration trailer, laptops, spot-welding machines, Lab Volt electronic stations, and gas-fired heating trainers, as well as a new building at Interurban Campus.

“Right now in BC, we’re at the lowest institutional funding from the government that we’ve ever seen, so it’s always encouraging to see money going into programs at Camosun,” says Camosun College Student Society (CCSS) external executive Rachael Grant.

Minister of Advanced Education Andrew Wilkinson expects to see one million job openings by 2022, 78 percent of which will require postsecondary education, and 44 percent of which will be in skilled trades and technical training.

“The Skills for Jobs Blueprint outlines a plan to align funding and programs to a data-driven system where training dollars and programs target these in-demand occupations,” says Wilkinson. “In-demand occupations support sectors that are critical to BC’s economy, including forestry, mining, and oil and gas.”

Camosun College dean of Technology and Trades Eric Sehn (photo by Jill Westby/Nexus).

Camosun College dean of Technology and Trades Eric Sehn (photo by Jill Westby/Nexus).

Eric Sehn, dean of Technology and Trades at Camosun College, says that the blueprint prepares students to be “effective in their jobs, right from the outset.”

“We want to ensure that we are aligning really well with the job opportunities for learners, as well,” says Sehn. “So we keep an eye on the labour market demand data that comes from the province and try to ensure that when they’re saying they have a waitlist and they have high-demand areas, like the Jobs Blueprint lays out, that we’re aligned with those priorities.”

Zach Crispin, chairperson of the BC chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS-BC), is concerned about the discrepancy between how much has been cut from postsecondary education and how little is being put into the system.

“Over the last year we have had a $45 million cut to operating grants for postsecondary education and about a $30 million cut to Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language,” says Crispin. “In the context of the province cutting tens of millions of dollars to postsecondary education, it’s difficult to be enthusiastic about a few hundred thousand dollars going into equipment.”

The CCSS also harbours some concerns about the funding, according to Grant, who says there’s a heavy priority on trades programs specifically targeted towards supporting the liquid natural gas industry.

“It is alarming to see that a very specific area is getting funneled so much funding, where other areas are very much neglected,” says Grant.

Meanwhile, Wilkinson adds that the government provides free online textbooks to students, as well as $223 million in student loans, which aids approximately 70,000 students with the cost of education. He says that every year the government “invests approximately $1.9 billion, or an average of $5 million a day, to support public post-secondary education in BC.”

Sehn says he’s happy with the ministry’s support. The applied nature of trades and technologies requires cutting-edge technology to support the curriculum, he says, and the lack of available classroom space is also an issue for trades programs. A portion of the funds are being put towards construction of a new building on Interurban campus.

“Some of our trades programs are learning in mobile classrooms that we built many years ago, and they are looking pretty tired,” says Sehn. “The $400,000 is great, but the only trick with the dollars is that they are fiscal year-end sensitive, which means we have to make sure to acquire our equipment before the end of March.”

The CFS is concerned by shortening terms at the expense of safety-training skills, says Crispin, in which students may become a framer instead of a carpenter with a Red Seal ticket.

“Those programs don’t allow people to move up in the industry and don’t allow people to get a wage that will allow them to support a family,” he says.

Crispin suggests that to improve trades programs, an increase in core funding is needed, “so that institutions can offer these programs with adequate support and with proper training in the classroom,” he says.

Grant wonders if the job market predictions will be reliable in five or 10 years, or if funnelling dollars should be considered “gambling.” The CCSS wants to see funding for all areas of trades and schooling so students can better themselves in the directions they are passionate about.

“Students should be able to do what they want to with their lives,” says Grant. “It should not be predetermined by what scene is in demand in the job market.”

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