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NWCC firmly behind national call for more trades training and support

Northwest Community College (NWCC) is backing a call for action by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) to address this country's critical shortage of skilled tradespeople. In a recent national news story, ACCC President James Knight stated that Canadians need to understand the degree of this shortage and the need for more skilled tradespeople now and in the future. He pointed to two reasons for the shortage. The first is the expected wave of baby boomer retirements. The second is the adverse social perception of skilled technical trades careers compared to those following from more academic programs. In an effort to meet this existing and future demand, Knight spearheads a group of about 40 organizations lobbying for increased investment in education for skilled trades. The group recently lobbied the House of Commons for an additional $3.7 billion over five years to modernize and re-capitalize Canadas colleges. NWCC President Stephanie Forsyth echoes the call and states that more investment is needed. The College has been responding to the trades deficit for many years; with more appropriate funding we could do more. In recent years, we have stepped up the number of trades programs, largely due to partnership arrangements with First Nations bands and school districts. The provincial ITA has been a supporter of our efforts, but more is needed. We need to broaden the range of programs we offer, particularly in upper level apprenticeship offerings, Forsyth said. Forsyth points to a high demand throughout the College region as a reason for expanded partnerships with area high schools and First Nations. The College offers the ACE-IT program in partnership with five school districts, enabling high school students to complete a first-year trades credential while earning up to 16 high school graduation credits. And it offers an increasing number of trades programs in First Nations communities, including carpentry, plumbing, electrical and residential building maintenance in the Nass Valley through its partnership with Wilp Wilxooskwhl Nisgaa (WWN). Since 2005, NWCC has tripled its trade program offerings says Margo Van Der Touw, the Colleges Dean of Trades. Much of the growth is due, she says, to those partnerships. The people in the Aboriginal villages are a significant and underutilized resource in meeting the skilled trades shortage, says Van Der Touw. Programs such as the 50-week construction trades program running in Old Masset is one example of the creative partnerships that bring training to students who would otherwise not have access. As for the perception that a career in trades is not a sought after one, Van Der Touw says it couldnt be further from the truth. Students are realizing a career in trades is an exciting, challenging and rewarding choice both personally and financially, she said. Northwest Community College offers a variety of trades training courses in both foundations programs and apprenticeship training. The former prepares students with entry-level skills required for work in trades. The latter, for indentured apprentices, combines formal classroom technical training with on-the-job training to earn the journey person classification. Provincial Investment in trades training has increased by approximately $17 million since 2005. The budget for trades training at NWCC has grown from $1.13 million in 2005 to $1.97 million in 2008 an increase of almost 75 per cent.

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