INNOVATION - A demonstration of the virtual reality welding simulators at Red Deer College’s Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing took place on Thursday. Students were on hand to showcase an RDC program that helps Indigenous students gain welding skills and experience in their home — the Montana First Nation.

Innovative program provides welding training for Aboriginal learners

Red Deer College showcases new program on Thursday

  • Feb. 2, 2017 10:46 p.m.

Today, Red Deer College launched the innovative Virtual Reality and Co-operative Trades – The Next Generation program.

The program, which is possible thanks to a partnership between RDC, Montana First Nation and WorleyParsonsCord, offers Aboriginal learners the opportunity to develop the practical skills, knowledge and experience needed for rewarding welding careers.

It is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Flexibility and Innovation in Apprenticeship Technical Training program.

“I am proud that our government has invested in this innovative project, making it possible for Indigenous apprentices to become journeypersons. High quality apprenticeship training programs help support a skilled, mobile and certified trades workforce. By helping Canadians succeed in the labour market, our government is helping to strengthen and grow the middle class and those working hard to join it,” said the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

The Virtual Reality and Co-operative Trades – The Next Generation program is separated into two cohort groups of learners with a capacity for 25 students per group, and the first cohort began their training in October 2016.

“This program really is innovative in so many ways, as it’s being offered in a unique, flexible format that allows the students to start training in their home communities,” explained Joel Ward, RDC president and CEO. “The programming infuses cultural teachings and learnings from the students’ elders with technical and hands-on training, offered through virtual reality welding simulators.”

After completing their first six weeks at Montana First Nation, the students came to RDC, taking their training in welding labs and classrooms at the College. Once the first portion of their training is complete, the students will transition into 20-week work placements with local employers. They will then return to RDC for the second portion of their training, followed by another 20-week work placement.

Once the students are finished, they will have received the training required for all three periods of the welder program, and they will have the opportunity to challenge the exam and practical assessment for each period. Plus, students will have hours to count toward their Journeyman certifications.

At this time, the first group of students is about to transition into their work placements, and the second group has just begun their training, starting with the portion in their home communities.

“There was such a tremendous response to this program from learners, as 100 people applied to be part of the first group, and 200 people applied for the second group,” said Ward. “This program truly has the opportunity to change people’s lives, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of all of the partners that came together to make it happen.”

– Fawcett

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