Welding boom buoys college program

Okanagan College's Oliver Centre is holding information sessions on their welding program on Nov. 24.

While instructor Alex Kortzman  watches her progress on a screen

While instructor Alex Kortzman watches her progress on a screen

Vancouver’s new ship-building contract is creating a pent-up demand for welders that will be felt province-wide and now job seekers living in the South Okanagan can get in on the picture, said the dean of trades and apprenticeship for Okanagan College.

“Any way you cut it, it’s looking good for welders,” said John Haller, as he makes preparations to bring the college’s welding program to Oliver for the first time this coming February.

The college is hosting two information sessions on Thursday, Nov. 24. The first will be held at Southern Okanagan Secondary School at 2:30 p.m., and the second later that evening at 5:30 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Oliver Centre. The welding program gets underway Feb. 6, 2012.

“For the last two to three months we’ve seen an increase in the number of employers calling and asking for students,” said Haller, adding the welding trade traditionally acts as a bellwether for the economy.

“Already there are more opportunities in the oil patch again, and now with Seaspan’s news in Vancouver there’s going to be a lot of movement, so that’s going to create a vacuum here.”

Delivering the 24-week entry-level session in the Town of Oliver couldn’t come at a better time, said Mayor Pat Hampson.

“Many residents in the South Okanagan are looking for jobs which offer good pay and with the demand for welders in general, this program offers residents the ability to train locally.”

Haller expects the program will attract students from throughout the South Okanagan — as far north as Summerland, and west to Keremeos.

The college is also working closely with local high school students interested in getting a head start on their career by obtaining dual credit through the Ace-It program.

Nick Hoy, a Grade 11 student at Southern Okanagan Secondary School, was already interested in becoming a welder when he heard about the dual credit option and jumped on it.

“I think this is a good idea. I get to take welding in place of other electives plus get my Welding C ticket, which means I can start work straight out of high school,” Hoy said.

High school students receive certification towards completion of an apprenticeship program all while receiving credits towards graduation.

“We hope this is the first of many partnership endeavours between School District 53 and the college to offer high school students trades training programs,” said Beverly Young, superintendent for the Okanagan Similkameen school district.

Haller said welding is also a growing field for women, making it especially attractive for those eligible for Okanagan College’s Women’s Trades Training Initiative (WTTI).

The WTTI program is targeting unemployed and underemployed women who are not eligible to receive employment insurance benefits. Funding for tuition, books and tools may be available to eligible women who apply for trades foundation training programs. There are limited seats available, so interested women should apply early.