BCIT gets big money from province

Funding from province to replace decades-old equipment to modernize programs

Advanced Education Minister John Yap tries his hand at welding earlier this month at Capilano University

Advanced Education Minister John Yap tries his hand at welding earlier this month at Capilano University – Courtesy of the Province of B.C.

For students using heavy duty machinery at BCIT, it is time to say goodbye to the dark ages, and welcome some current technology into your training.

The province of British Columbia announced they would invest $1.5 million into what they call “new skills training equipment” at BCIT.

This money is part of the provincial government’s greater plan to spend $17 million province-wide to support the upgrade of equipment at public post-secondary institutions, according to a press release by the ministry of advanced education, innovation and technology.

“It’ll be a range of skills and trades that will be supported and we look forward to seeing this implementation over the next couple months,” said John Yap, who heads the ministry.

At  BCIT, the equipment that will be purchased, acquired or donated from industry partners as part of the program includes hydraulic excavators, wheel loaders, milling machines, rock truck, lab volt workstations, hybrid vehicles, and lathes.

[pullquote]“A lot of our equipment here is 1960s vintage; it’s quite outdated.”
— Bruce Thompson, heavy duty equipment instructor[/pullquote]BCIT’s school of transportation is one that will benefit from this list of equipment, specifically the heavy duty mechanic program, the commercial transport mechanic program and the diesel engine mechanic program.

In assessing which schools and programs would receive funding, the provincial government said they considered the needs of the economy in each region, as well as current and future program and industry requirements.

“We had to apply to the government, saying, ‘These are the things that we want to change and want to replace,’” explained Bruce Thompson, chief instructor for the heavy duty equipment group at BCIT. “An auditor went through and checked all that and held people accountable.”

As to why the upgrade will be so critical, Thompson explained that a lot of the heavy duty equipment currently available to his students uses old mechanical mechanisms, such as levers, rods and cables. Now, machines are controlled by computers using wire and electrical signals.

“A lot of our equipment here is 1960s vintage; it’s quite outdated. We have not really updated our equipment in many, many years,” said Thompson.

He explained that without having training equipment that mirrors current industry status quo, apprentices waste time when they get out in the field, as do industry professionals who are trying to teach them effectively.

“Right now schools are quite a bit behind on technology and apprentices are not as job ready as we would like to see them, and as industry would like to see them,” said Thompson.

To stay current with technological innovation, many trades programs receive regular donations from industry partners who simply write off new equipment donations. However, in the heavy duty mechanics programs, the expense of the equipment needed means that companies can’t justify donating to his program, according to Thompson.

“[A company] can write off a $20, 000, $30, 000 or $40, 000 car no problem … even $125, 000 sometimes, but I don’t know of any company out there that will write off a quarter million dollar [heavy duty mechanics] machine to donate to the school,” explained Thompson. “So when it comes down to the expensive stuff it’s really tough.”

Although the funding BCIT was awarded is different than what he was hoping for, Thompson says that they still do a lot with what they received.

“We’re looking at purchasing an excavator, and the one we are looking at costs around $100,000,” said Thompson. He underlines that although the equipment acquired will be “new” to BCIT, much of it will be second-hand.“That’s one of the things the government mandated with the money.”

According the ministry of advanced education, the provincial government has donated at total of $61 million to capital projects at BCIT since 2001.[hr]

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