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Posted: March 5, 2015

COTR gets funds to expand industrial training programs

College of the Rockies March 3 received a welcome gift of federal government funds from Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks to help it expand its industrial training programs.

On behalf of the Hon. Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, Wilks presented $350,000 to the college during a brief ceremony at the beautiful Aboriginal Gathering Place.

The Western Diversification Program funds will allow the college to purchase software that converts COTR’s haul truck simulators into heavy equipment operator simulators. This will allow for greater heavy equipment training, including bulldozer, grader and excavator, noted COTR present David Walls.

COTR lead haul truck simulator trainer Darren Hood, left,  walks City of Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick, right, and City of Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt (centre) through the Haul Truck Simulator, available for funding ceremony participants to check out Tuesday afternoon.
COTR lead haul truck simulator trainer Darren Hood, left, walks City of Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick, right, and City of Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt (centre) through the Haul Truck Simulator, available for funding ceremony participants to check out Tuesday afternoon.

Heavy equipment operation is among the top 60 careers facing labour shortages moving forward, Walls told a gathering of about 30 college staff, Ktunaxa Nation officials, Columbia Basin Trust, industry, media and local leaders, including City of Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt and City of Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick.

“The new training software will allow us to build on our successful haul truck simulator training and to provide the same high level of instruction to help fill the need for heavy equipment operators in road building, forestry, mining and other heavy industry throughout the region and beyond,” Walls stated.

By providing funds for COTR, the federal government is recognizing a need to help push Western Canada’s economy forward, Wilks said.

“This project allows the College of the Rockies to train skilled workers in a high demand sector in Western Canada so that we can continue to create jobs and economic growth,” he said, pointing out that between 2013 and 2020 it is expected there will be 22,800 job openings in the Kootenays.

Rick Jensen, former long-time Cranbrook mayor, was on hand representing Columbia Basin Trust. The Trust’s board vice-chair noted: “This initiative is a great example of (government) responding to a local need. It will help fill the demand” for local companies to be able to hire “local, skilled labour.”

Greg Ehman of Emcon Services agreed with Jensen.

“It takes a bit of vision and foresight to listen to industry and that is what has been done,” he said, adding COTR will be able to fill a need “for one of the hottest job markets in Western Canada.

“There is a looming trades shortage in Canada,” Ehman warned. “Thank you again for listening. It is critical that youth understand they don’t need a four-year degree to support their family.”

The upgrades to COTR’s heavy equipment training capabilities will also benefit the college’s satellite campuses in Creston, Fernie, Golden, Invermere and Kimberley, as well as outside the region.

Lead image: From left – Greg Ehman of Emcon Services, COTR president David Walls, Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks and CBT board vice-chair Rick Jensen.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW


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