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OC students get hands-on experience in community for in-demand trades
Okanagan College Media Release

With a 44 per cent increase in new housing starts in the Shuswap over the last year, an Okanagan College program is training Salmon Arm students to meet the expected labour demand.Magdalena Kerner Feb 2017

The Shuswap is expected to see continued growth in the residential construction industry and WorkBC projects the province will have over 10,000 job openings for carpenters in the next decade.

The 26-week Residential Construction program is offered at the Salmon Arm campus and includes hand skills, safety training and trades math, and is ideal for those who enjoy physical activity, using tools and working both indoors and outdoors. Graduates of the program can go on to pursue careers as apprentice carpenters.

“It’s a great program for someone who wants to take the first step to change their career path, develop new skills, or to learn the techniques that will enable them to do their own home renovations,” says Rob Barton, Residential Construction instructor at Okanagan College. “Upon completion, students will walk out of the classroom with the theoretical foundation and practical experience that makes them ready for the workforce.”

Students will also complete a 14-week community-based construction project that gives them hands-on industry experience. Graduates are recognized for Level 1 carpentry technical training and credited with 450 work-based-hours towards the completion of Carpenter Level 1 Apprenticeship.

This year, the Salmon Arm cohort will construct a covered stage open-air amphitheatre at Gardom Lake Bible Camp that will provide valuable experience in concrete prepping, forming and placing.

This will be the second year the Salmon Arm students will complete work experience projects at the camp, and both parties feel the partnership has been mutually beneficial.  

“We were really pleased with the professionalism the students brought to the site last year,” explains Rick Kieft, Executive Director of the Gardom Lake Bible Camp. “As a camp and retreat, we believe in developing the next generation. Whenever there is the opportunity for youth to gain work experience, education, or learn a trade, we want to support it.”

For student Magdalena Kerner, the work site experience was one of the highlights of the College’s Residential Construction program. When she enrolled in the program at the Vernon campus in 2015 as part of the Women in Trades Training, she was looking for a career change.

“I knew I wanted to be hands-on in a job that was mentally stimulating and involved design and planning,” she explains. “When I started the course, I knew very little about carpentry. The skills I developed while helping build the Lake Country Food Bank were unique to being on a construction site and couldn’t have been taught in a classroom.”

Kerner didn’t have to wait to complete the foundation program to find employment and be paid for those skills. While in her final week of the course, she was hired by Greyback Construction where she worked on projects in the Kootenays and Okanagan.

She is now taking the Level 3 apprenticeship at the College’s Kelowna campus and works for Bercum Builders in Vernon on high-end custom homes.

“The foundation program offers a newcomer to the industry a great combination of safety practices, building science theory, essential hands-on skills, first aid training and 450 work-based hours – all which give one a great head start,” she adds.

Okanagan College is currently accepting applications for the next intake of the 26-week program which begins Feb. 20 at the Salmon Arm and Penticton campuses.

To learn more and apply online visit okanagan.bc.ca/trades