Archive for January 2010
People driving to work in Summerside early in the morning may wonder about the identities of the group of young men they see running on the boardwalk along Water Street. They seemed to appear mysteriously, early in the New Year. In fact, the 12 young men are students in Holland College’s Commercial Diving program, which recently relocated from Georgetown to the Marine Training Centre in Summerside.
The students are settling nicely into their new location. The move to the Marine Training Centre was necessary because the space the program was using in Georgetown was needed for the Plumbing, Steamfitting/Pipefitting, and Welding Fabrication programs, and more space was required to make room for the introduction of the Iron Worker program next fall.
The move gives students in the Commercial Diving program more exposure to a marine training environment. In order to accommodate the program, a 4,000 sq. ft. two-storey wing is being added to the Marine Training Centre. The cost of the project, which was funded through the federal government’s Community Adjustment Fund, is in the area of $400,000. Students in the Power Engineering program, which has been located in the Marine Training Centre for quite some time, are moving into the new wing, and the Commercial Diving program has moved into an existing area of the MTC, less than 100 feet from the edge of the wharf.
Commercial Diving learning manager Stephen White said the new location is perfect.
“Before, we would have to pack all the gear into a van to get it down to the wharf,” he explained. “Now we can run the umbilical lines right out of the shop and over the edge of the wharf into the water, so we don’t have to keep packing and unpacking the gear, which can be quite time consuming.”
Commercial divers work in a variety of roles, including inspecting, maintaining, and repairing harbour infrastructure, deep water drilling platforms, bridges, and oil and gas pipelines; in shipbuilding and repair; search and rescue; sea food harvesting and aquaculture; in the Canadian military; in developing countries building infrastructure; in quality control and quality auditing companies; and in non-destructive testing companies.
Most of the programs graduates find employment on the east or west coast of Canada, starting at a rate of pay of $25 to $30 per hour. As they gain more experience, they move into the off-shore industry, where wages are higher.
Only one of the 12 students in this year’s class is from P.E.I., the rest came to the Island to take the program, so the move to Summerside was an inconvenience for many of them. I asked them how they felt about the relocation now. One student is commuting from Charlottetown, and another decided to stay in Vernon Bridge, so he has about an hour and a half drive to get to class; but they all seemed to agree that the move was for the better.
Every year, the Marine Training Centre attracts approximately 1,000 mariners from across the continent to upgrade their skills. The centre offers courses in everything from entry-level positions such as Engine Room Rating and Bridge Watch Rating to Chief Engineer and Master Mariner. The mariners who train at the centre return many times over the years as they move forward in their careers. The equipment that they train on is state-of-the-art, including a bridge simulator so realistic that people have been known to get seasick when it’s set to emulate rolling seas!
“Here at the Marine Training Centre, they’re in an environment that’s much closer to the industry they’ll be working in,” Stephen told me. “The people who come here year round for short courses are pretty much the same people they’ll meet when they are out in the workforce,” he noted.
Welcome back, and Happy New Year!
The upcoming year promises to be especially busy for the college. Construction projects are forging ahead in Georgetown and Charlottetown, the Commercial Diving program has relocated to its new home at the Marine Training Centre in Summerside, and new programs are being developed for the Centre for Applied Science and Technology, which is scheduled to open early in 2011.
Busy tends to be the norm at the college. Our students and staff have returned from their Christmas break, and everyone’s getting back into the swing of things.
For 24 Holland College Transitions students, their first week back at the college was full of activity. The college’s Transitions program, which has been running since the fall of 2002, gives high school students an opportunity to experience first-hand a variety of programs around the college as well as out in the field. Last week, the “field” was the Habitat for Humanity building, where they have been volunteering in a variety of roles related to retail, construction, and office work.
Transitions mentor Chris Connolly invited me to drop in to see what the students were up to. Habitat for Humanity, located at 365 Mount Edward Road in Charlottetown, is a hive of activity. The Habitat for Humanity ReStore sells quality new and used building materials, furniture, and appliances, all of which have been donated by individuals and organizations. There’s a great selection of windows, ranging from the antique to nearly-new vinyl, old mantle pieces, door knobs, doors, cast iron bathtubs, couches, desks…basically everything, including the kitchen sink.
When the college was preparing the construction site for the Prince of Wales Campus expansion, Habitat for Humanity was invited to strip the buildings of any reusable materials before they were demolished. Allan MacRae, assistant manager of the ReStore, said there were lots of great finds in the old houses.
“We got several cast iron radiators out of one building, and two cast iron bathtubs,” he told me. They were also able to recover a lot of Douglas fir baseboard, and some great French doors.
The Transitions students were hard at work when I visited them. With volunteers, their teacher from Bluefield, Lorna Ryan-Koughan, mentor Chris Connolly, and Habitat for Humanity staff overseeing them, they were building doors for the organization’s Baby Barn Build Blitz Fundraiser, working in the store sorting and packing door knobs, and in the office, preparing lists of potential donors for the barn building fundraiser.
It’s giving them an opportunity to find out what goes on inside a not-for-profit organization, although arguably, Habitat for Humanity seems to be one of the more dynamic not-for-profits…I think it might be all the hustle and bustle around the place that keeps the energy level and enthusiasm of the students high.
Some of the students have tried their hand at all aspects of the organization, while others found a niche that they enjoyed on the first day, and are firmly and happily ensconced in one place.
Emily Gass, a Grade 12 student from Bluefield High School, said that she’s really enjoyed working in the store, which came as a surprise to her. But then again, she says the entire Transitions experience has been full of surprises.
“It’s been awesome,” she told me. “I’m so glad I took the Transitions program. It’s a great opportunity to find out about different jobs.”
Demand for the program is high among senior high school students, and what initially started as program for youth at risk of dropping out or not continuing into post-secondary education has morphed into a program that students of all academic stripes are keen to take.
This group of students is at a different location this week, but for some, like Emily, their week at Habitat for Humanity has made a lasting impression.