Recent History – 2004-2006
By Gary Rusak, March 24, 2005
Two years after the province agreed to fund the expansion of the Northern Lights College Aerospace Centre the spacious hangar hosted a celebration of a job well done.
“It is wonderful,” said Andy Cole, aviation program department head for NLC. “This has been one solution required after the next after the next and today was a celebration of a lot of people fixing a lot of small things.”
On Wednesday, representatives from the college, the city and the province gathered to tour the $2.5 million 15,000 square ft. expansion of the facility that was originally built in 1956 as part of the Mid Canada Radar Defense System Base. The extension doubled the hangar area and added classroom facilities and a new hoisting equipment for the larger aircraft. It also makes it possible for students currently enrolled in the course to get hands-on experience with six different types of airplanes and five different helicopters.
“We have doubled the building size and it made it possible to increase the student enrollment,” said Cole. “Two years ago we had 51 students, to 83 students in training right now.”
Another boost for the popular 15-month program was the innovative partnership brokered between NLC and Okanagan University College in Vernon. The partnership allowed students to take 12 months of their training in the Vernon and the last three months in Dawson Creek.
“This partnership of openly sharing resources and instructors and curriculum is a model that will suit the province well,” said Cole. “The plan is moving ahead. This is the start of future expansion. We intend to be growing our capability from 32 diplomas a year to 100 diplomas a year with multiple partnerships.”
The students present at the ceremony were more than happy to sing the praises of the course and its instructors.
“Here they have all the aircraft available so there is a wider range of things I could do,” said Darcy Martindale who moved from SalmonArm to finish the last three months of the course. “It is very professional, it is top notch. I’m sure this is as good as it gets.”
Student Stacey Burdge of Kelowna said that the transition between the Vernon portion of the course and the NLC portion was as smooth as she could have hoped.
“It was pretty good,” she said. “We had some of the instructors from here come down to Vernon in November and December to teach us some courses so we knew them before we got up here. It really worked well.”
Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom congratulated the college for the continued success it has had in meeting the aerospace industry’s demand for labour.
“I’m extremely proud to be a part of a region where Northern Lights College is the leader in providing educational opportunities,” he said. “This program itself is well respected all across North America and that is because of the quality of instructors we have and the quality of the structure.”