Trades pilot program launched at TRU

New program allows apprentices to finish schooling in one block

Jessica Klymchuk, News Editor Ω

Apprentices Jamie Gainsforth and Eric Moore show B.C. Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk how a technologically advanced engine operates. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Apprentices Jamie Gainsforth and Eric Moore show B.C. Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk how a technologically advanced engine operates. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

TRU is offering a new pilot program for commercial truck and transport mechanic apprentices that allows them to finish all their schooling in one block. The diploma of transportation and motive power was officially announced by B.C. Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk on campus Nov. 19.

“There’s a lot of consultation in our trades that said we needed to be more flexible, that we needed to look at new ways of delivering education,” he said. “It needed to be responsive to regional economic and regional employment needs.”

Traditional apprenticeship programs see the classroom work spread over four years, but the new pilot program allows students to complete their classroom work and co-op training in the first 61 weeks.

“You look at a system where an apprentice goes to school, goes to work and then comes back, and we had a lot of feedback saying that wasn’t working,” Virk said.

He said the new program is in response to employers needing apprentices at work when they are required to return to school and apprentices who struggle to find workplace sponsors because of that.

“The employers and those who are representative employers absolutely benefit because they stay at that work force with uninterrupted attention and potentially you keep your employees for a long time,” Virk said. “They’re going to return to you and they’re going to stay with you.”

B.C. Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk announced the launch of the "front-end loaded" program on Nov. 19 that sees apprentices completing their schooling in one block. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

B.C. Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk announced the launch of the “front-end loaded” program on Nov. 19 that sees apprentices completing their schooling in one block. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

The Transport Career Development Association and the Industry Training Authority (ITA) developed the new model. Sixteen students began the pilot program in August 2013 sponsored by BC Transit, Cullen Diesel Power Ltd, Inland Kenworth and Peterbilt Pacific Inc. ITA is providing $179,600 in funding to support technical training in the program, which also includes employer-specific training.

“Thompson Rivers University has been extremely accommodating and supportive in the launch of the DTMP program,” Peterbilt apprentice Jamie Gainsforth said. “The facilities allow us to experience a little bit of the shop atmosphere and try things that we might not get an opportunity to do until further into our careers.”

TRU president Alan Shaver said the program is an example of the innovation universities are going to have to strive for in order to meet the future needs of students and employers.

A press release from the Ministry of Advanced Education said “in the Cariboo, 23 per cent of the regional trades labour demand between 2010 and 2020 would be for machinery and transportation mechanics.” The program is focused on commercial transport mechanic apprentices but Virk said there could be examination of how it can be expanded further.