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New classes of welders help address South Okanagan demand
Okanagan College Media Release

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

“We’ve heard from employers – both those who have businesses in Penticton and the South Okanagan and those who are further afield – about the need for welders,” says Lomas. “With support from industry, and from the government, we’ve been able to organize two new intakes of students that start in February.”

There will be 16 students in each intake, adding 32 welders to the more than 110 the College has already taught in Penticton, since it started offering welding in 2007.

Penticton Fabricating President Brad Harder is among those industry representatives who see the need for welding programs in Penticton. Right now, he has about 17 welders working for him – many have come from the Okanagan College programs. 

“One of the major hurdles that we face is access to training for welders,” says Harder, who also sits on the College’s Program Advisory Committee for welding. “I know of several people who would like to become welders but are not able to leave Penticton to get the required training. It’s why news of these two classes is very welcome.”

Filling the classes isn’t a problem, says Lomas. 

“We’re already there, but we are anticipating more classes in the future, so if anyone is interested, they ought to visit our website and apply as new sections become available. 

And even if oil patch prospects have been dimmed by falling oil prices, there is still demand for welders, says Steve Moores, Okanagan College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. 

“Whether it is ship-building, fabricating, or manufacturing, there is intense employer demand for welders,” he notes. “All you have to do is look at the demographics of the trades to see there is a silver tsunami of retirements on the horizon.”

Lomas, for one, is thankful that Okanagan College took a different approach to trades training after the change from OUC in 2005. It was then that the College started to disperse trades training to campuses other than Kelowna. 

“We have really benefitted in this area,” she says. “We’ve brought in programs in refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic, welding, plumbing, residential construction, women in trades, gateway to the trades and electrical. We’ve also added a new three-year diploma program in Sustainable Construction Management Technology, a program that is unique in British Columbia.”

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