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Praxair donation helps Okanagan College keep welding students on the cutting edge
Okanagan College Media Release

Praxair Donation Sept 2015Welding students at Okanagan College’s Kelowna Campus recently sparked their torches for the first time in a newly retrofitted shop, and a donation from Praxair’s Global Giving Program is helping the College outfit state-of-the-art workspaces for them.

“Praxair has a long history of developing talented STEM and skilled trade professionals that help us remain competitive globally,” says Praxair Canada President Sean Durbin. “Having this kind of training available locally through Okanagan College will help our region grow and we’re proud to be able to support our community in this way.”

Praxair has pledged $50,000 to the Bright Horizons fundraising campaign behind the $33-million renovation and expansion of the College’s trades training facilities. Praxair Canada’s donation was also supplemented by a matching grant through United Way Worldwide, bringing the overall donation up to almost $60,000.

Praxair supports STEM and skilled trades training worldwide through scholarships, donations and initiatives. Last year the company developed the Praxair Skills Pipeline, a program to help address the growing need for skilled workers in today’s global economy.

The donation to the College supported the construction and equipping of six welding booths in the new shop, which will boast 36 booths in total. Students will continue to have access to 32 booths in an older shop space behind the new facilities.

“Despite slowdowns in a number of sectors like Oil and Gas, we are seeing that the demand for welders in Western Canada remains strong,” says Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. “Our welding programs are waitlisted and train in two shifts, morning and night, five days a week, to accommodate as many students as we can.”

With potential for the growth of LNG and shipbuilding on the horizon in B.C., Moores says the College is building for the future and working closely with industry partners to stay current on the newest technologies and techniques.

“This new welding shop is going to provide our students with a completely modern learning environment with all the latest technologies and equipment that they will encounter out in the industry.”

In addition to new technologies, improvements to the shop include more efficient lighting, heating and cooling, and a more efficient extraction system which improves ventilation.

Okanagan College is currently the largest public post-secondary trainer of welders in British Columbia, having trained more than 300 FTE (full-time equivalent) students in 2014-2015. Since 2010, the College has trained 1773 FTE welding apprentices and foundation students, including 930 at the Kelowna Campus alone.

In addition to support for the new shop, donations have also allowed for the creation of new bursaries and other support for students in the welding program, says Okanagan College Director Kathy Butler.

“We are so grateful to Praxair and all of the donors who come forward to support this project,” says Butler. “The generosity of our community has been wonderful, and we hope more and more people will continue to get involved. We hope all of our donors, and everyone who is considering supporting the project, understands the impact, the wonderful investment they are making in our students’ futures.”

Launched in October of last year, the Bright Horizons Building for Skills Campaign aims to raise $7 million—$5 million for capital construction and $2 million for student and program support—to complement the provincial government’s $28-million commitment.

As soon as the old welding shop has been vacated, work will begin to upgrade and retrofit the space to house the College’s RV Technician program. In accordance with the College’s commitment to sustainable construction this will mean bringing the decades’ old facilities up to LEED Platinum standards to match the trades training tower under construction along KLO Road. The complex is expected to be fully completed and open to students next spring.

To learn more about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved, please visit