Monday, December 11, 2017

Camosun College surpasses funding goal for trades buildings

January 4, 2017 by Quinn Hiebert, features writer

Camosun College has reached their $6.5-million funding goal for new buildings and renovations at the Interurban campus. The college—which raised the funds through its TRADEmark of Excellence campaign—exceeded its goal by $1.5 million.

A large chunk of the fundraising went toward Interurban’s new Centre for Trades Education and Innovation. TRADEmark of Excellence campaign director Angus Matthews says students should take a look at the new building.

“It is a truly dramatic building that really upgrades the appearance of what trades education looks like,” says Matthews. “I think there’ll be a lot of pride in that for students. I think it’ll attract a lot more students saying, ‘Hey, the trades are a lot more sophisticated than we realized; these are great jobs.’”

Camosun TRADEmark of Excellence campaign director Angus Matthews (photo by Jill Westby/Nexus).

Some of the college’s trades programs were previously crammed into Interurban’s Jack White and John Drysdale buildings, as well as two “temporary” buildings that are roughly 20 years old. Camosun College Student Society (CCSS) external executive Rachael Grant says there is a significant lack of college funding from the provincial government.

“It is important to remember that institutional funding from our provincial government is at an all-time low,” says Grant. “That is a responsibility from our government that has been lacking for some time. It’s important that students have resources.”

Matthews says the reality of funding is that while the government has supported Camosun in significant ways—the most recent being a contribution of $29.2 million to the construction of the new building—the TRADEmark campaign has had to appeal to donors.

“As I’m saying to private donors all the time,” says Matthews, “do you want Camosun to be as good as the government can make it, or as good as the community can make it? We really need the community to help with the extras, and that’s what this campaign’s done.”

Students and student education have been a large focus of the campaign; for example, when Babcock Canada president Mark Dixon presented Babcock’s $800,000 donation to the college, he brought 14 Camosun graduates with him (Babcock Canada manages maintenance on navy submarines). Camosun director of applied research and innovation Tim Walzak says the Babcock interaction lab—to be housed in the Jack White Building—will be designed to consolidate equipment and create a space for collaboration.

“That’s part of our vision here,” says Walzak. “Most of our grads are going to work in smaller companies or in different kinds of institutions or local community partners, and in those cases, they’re working as part of an interdisciplinary team. But we don’t teach them as part of an interdisciplinary team. This is an opportunity to bring those disciplines together while the students are being educated in order to give them a better skill set, to be more employable when they’re finished at Camosun.”

Of the $6.5 million raised, a little under $1.5 million has been invested in the college’s Coastal Skills Initiative and West Coast Women in Trades program; Matthews says that only nine percent of trades students are female, compared to almost 50 percent females in other programs.

“There are a lot of women with an interest in trades,” says Matthews. “Had there been a program with a mentor, a network of other women in trades, scholarship support, maybe bursary support for tools or boots, better daycare, I bet a lot more women would have a real interest in trades. With the skills gap, we desperately need underrepresented groups recruited; women would certainly be one of those.”

Matthews says West Coast Women in Trades will be a collection of services in terms of support, mentoring, and job placement.

“That’s the next battle for women,” says Matthews. “It’s one thing for them to choose to be educated at Camosun in the trades; it’s another thing for them to be accepted on the job sites.”

The final donation of $10,000 came from students, through the CCSS. Matthews says it was a lovely way for Camosun to tell donors that students are also supportive.

“It is being added to the scholarship funding for trade students,” says Matthews. “We’ve talked a lot of big numbers here, but for the student society to have endorsed what we’re trying to do by contributing, and by helping us invest in students, it’s one of the very meaningful gifts we’ve received and one we hugely appreciate.”

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