Northwest Community College has suspended its heavy duty mechanics program, citing low demand and old equipment as the prime reasons.
Senior college official Beverley Moore-Garcia said applications and registrations dropped as people realized the kind of equipment they would train on was outdated compared to industry standards.
“It was really intertwined,” she said of how one circumstance affected the other as word spread about the state of the college’s equipment.
“We knew we were reaching a point where we could not be providing the desired learning outcomes on what we could offer.”
Moore-Garcia said the college turned out one last apprentice group in the spring after which it decided not to offer an introductory class, called a foundations class, this fall.
The foundations program could take up to 16 students and cost approximately $91,000 which was provided by the Industry Training Authority, a provincial agency aimed at generating skilled trade employees.
The decision comes at a time when the college has been recasting itself as a trades and training centre for the region in anticipation of the need for skilled trades employees on billions of dollars of large industrial projects either underway or planned.
Just this fall, college officials began lobbying local government officials for support in seeking $45 million for a fully-equipped new trades building at its Terrace campus.
Moore-Garcia said the foundations class instructor also retired this year and efforts are underway to find a replacement.
The college also applied for a portion of the $17 million the provincial government said it was providing this fall to improve trades training based on a review of programs across the province.
Moore-Garcia wouldn’t reveal how much money the college wants other than to say it is substantial and is needed for replacement equipment and equipment it has never had before.
“We had a consultant from the [advanced education] ministry come up and look at our facilities,” she said. “That review hasn’t been completed.”
There’s no word as to when the province will announce how much money the college will get but Premier Christy Clark, while in Prince George in September, said $5 million of the $17 million will be sent to northern colleges and that the College of New Caledonia in Prince George can expect a “good portion” of that northern $5 million.
Moore-Garcia said the decision to suspend was difficult but was the only one that could be made.
“It needed to be addressed and that’s a statement of fact. Budgets are tight through every ministry,” she said.
The decision also worked against the college’s philosophical foundation that people who are trained in the north will stay in the north, she added.
The college was fortunate enough to be able to keep the $91,000 it received from the Industry Training Authority for the now-suspended heavy duty mechanics program and spent it in other trades areas.
It also received $839,000 from the province in the spring to spend on trades training and will be using that money on a program intended to introduce trades to high school students.
The idea is to expose students to various trades in Grades 10 and 11 so they’ll have a better idea of what’s involved should they wish to pursue one specific trade, said Moore-Garcia.