Need for skilled workers in Penticton

Colleen Pennington, Penticton’s economic development officer, said the need for skilled workers is very real.

Welder Terry Wyman puts the finishing touches on another Blaze King wood stove at the company shop on Commercial Way.

Penticton businesses are looking forward to the graduation of 32 new welders from programs at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus.

Two new classes of welding students should help address employer and student demand for the trade, according to South Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Dean Donna Lomas.

With support from industry and the government, Lomas said they have been able to organize two new intakes of 16 students each that start in February.

Coun. Helena Konanz, who has pushed for regular welding classes at the college, said she is happy to see the new classes.

Rotating welding classes between college campuses caused concern for employer and student alike, according to Konanz.

“Some classes weren’t being filled. I think that was because the classes weren’t offered often enough,” she said. “There was a lot of uncertainty about the program and now I think they are really starting to gather speed and popularity, especially with the jobs that are available.”

Colleen Pennington, Penticton’s economic development officer, said the need for skilled workers is very real.

“Most of the firms need a good welder. They are generally hard to find,” said Pennington, listing off a number of area manufacturers, including Britco, Moduline andWacon. “The welder, the millwright and the heavy duty mechanic, that comes up very regularly in our manufacturing sector, because there is so much custom manufacturing.”

As an example, Pennington said the Foundry is looking for heavy duty mechanics and millwrights.

“It has taken them a year and a half just to get one of the workers into the millwright school at BCIT,” she said.

Brad Harder, president of Penticton Fabricating, sits on the college’s advisory committee for the welding program. His company employs about 17 welders, but says access to training is a major hurdle.

He said he knows several people who would like to become welders but are not able to leave Penticton to get the required training.

Konanz said she began her push for welding courses during her first campaign for council. Campaigning on bringing jobs to Penticton was a common theme, but Konanz said that after consulting with representatives of the city’s industrial and manufacturing sectors, that there were already jobs that were not being filled.

“I realized there were quite a few good paying jobs available in Penticton right now, but they couldn’t fill them. There wasn’t enough people trained locally, is what they told me,” said Konanz. “What we needed to do was fill the jobs that were available.”

Konanz felt the gap needed to be bridged between available jobs and the training programs available at both Okanagan College and secondary schools.

Beyond filling job needs, Konanz said the more the community works on growing the college, the better.

“I am very much a fan of Penticton working towards becoming a college town,” said Konanz.  “The growth of the college would really help Penticton’s economy in general.”

For more info about programs being offered by the college in the South Okanagan and Similkameen, visit the campus’s webpage at www.okanagan.bc.ca/penticton.