$30-million boost for Camosun

Expansion at Interurban campus will double trades training space

A $30-million expansion to Camosun College will double the space for trades training and help fill local shipbuilding jobs, the provincial government announced Thursday.

Advanced Education Minister John Yap announced $29.2 million to build two new trades buildings at the Interurban campus - a 4,180 square-metre marine and metal trades centre, and a 3,252 squaremetre mechanical and automotive trades facility.

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"Today's announcement [will ensure] we have the best possible facilities for trades training, shipbuilding and all the other important trades needed in our economy," said Yap.

It's a "pretty exciting announcement" for the local shipbuilding industry, which will provide input into the trades curriculum and hire students out of the school, said Victoria Shipyards general manager Malcolm Barker.

Victoria Shipyards is owned by Seaspan Marine Corp., which last year won an $8-billion federal government contract to build non-combat ships. The contract is expected to generate 4,000 direct and indirect jobs, some of which will be in Victoria.

The upgrades to Camosun also include renovating two existing trades buildings into a sustainable construction and renewable energy centre, as well as a technology and innovation centre.

The new facilities will double the total space available for trades training workshops and classrooms, Camosun president Kathryn Laurin said.

More than 2,500 students train in Camosun trades programs a year, and the new facilities will make space for an additional 370 people, she said.

The Camosun programs include welding, sheet metal, metal fabrication, ship building, heavy-duty automotive and truck transport service, plumbing, electrical and piping programs.

Camosun only has to contribute $800,000 toward the construction, with the provincial government picking up the rest of the tab as part of Premier Christy Clark's push to improve B.C.'s post-secondary skills training network as part of her B.C. Jobs Plan.

Clark has said she wants to encourage young people to consider a career in trades, make it easier to get an education and better align trades courses with actual jobs in different parts of the province.

"There used to be a stigma attached to trades that is now quickly vanishing as people are realizing that we've got students going up to work in the oil and gas industries who are making six figure salaries," said Laurin. "It's now a very accepted and attractive career option for a lot of people."

Construction is expected to begin this fall. The school is demolishing the old Tillicum Lodge building to make way for the new facilities. The upgrades will include a new central commons area for students, expanded yard space and upgrades to electrical service in existing buildings.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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