Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton introduces Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark (left) during Thursday’s announcement of funding for more students in the aircraft maintenance engineering structures program.—Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

More aircraft maintenance spaces at Okanagan College created

Partnership between government, college and private sector funds new training spots

A new partnership is leading to increased trades opportunities.

The province, Okanagan College, Kelowna’s KF Aerospace, the Industry Training Authority and the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada is providing more training for aspiring aircraft technicians in Kelowna.

Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark was in the city Thursday to announce a second class of 14 students is being added in the college’s aircraft maintenance engineering structures program.

And both Mark and KF Aerospace president Tracy Medve said the move will help fill a desperate need for more skilled workers in the aerospace sector.

“With a global and regional demand for people in the aerospace industry exceeding the supply of qualified apprentices, it is critical to find solutions to meet the needs of industry while creating good-paying jobs for people,” said Mark during her announcement at the hangar where the training is offered.

Medve said her company is in desperate need of more skilled workers and there are currently 20 vacancies in the aircraft maintenance engineering structures at KF Aerospace.

“We want to continue to expand our operations,” she said. “Having this additional group of specially trained students is going to go a long way to closing that gap.”

The program offers students 10 months of education, from which they go on to apprentice at KF Aerospace for another 2.5 years.

Medve said her company has contributed about $100,000 into the program, with another $88,000 coming from ITA, which distributes money for trades training in B.C. on behalf of the government, and $20,000 from AIAC.

On Friday, Gary Herman of ITA said his organization is already committed to funding a third class next year.

“This is an example of innovation at its best,” said OC president Jim Hamilton. “We identified a need in our community and found ways to partner with government and industry to deliver a flexible and creative solution that gives students more opportunities to train for rewarding careers close to home.”

Of the 14 new students signed up for the program, four are women. Both the college and KF Aerospace were recognized for helping more women get into the trades.

Student Cassandra Johnson, speaking on behalf of her classmates, said the additional intake allowed her to get started on her training earlier than expected and will help get her out into the work force in just a few months.

“I am extremely grateful to the funding partners for working together to make this happen for me and my family,” said the former stay-at-home mom who learned of the aircraft maintenance structures program when she participated in the college’s Women In Trades course.

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