Camosun program aimed at coastal communities

Coastal Skills Initiative will equip students with skills to work in marine industry

Seaspan Victoria Shipyards is one of the founding partners of Camosun’s new Coastal Skills Initiative. Last month

Seaspan Victoria Shipyards is one of the founding partners of Camosun’s new Coastal Skills Initiative. Last month

A new program that addresses the needs of coastal communities and industries could be the harbinger of a larger shift in orientation of Camosun College.

Vaughn Watson, director of the TRADEmark of Excellence Campaign, says the college’s Coastal Skills Initiative, worth an estimated $1 million, will educate students in their specific trade, then provide them with additional training that will equip them with the skills to work in the marine industry.

“We need to focus on things that make the coasts more sustainable and prosperous,” said Watson.

Graduates, he said, could be working on a wide range of marine-related projects. They could include rebuilding sub-standard housing in remote coastal communities, building and maintaining marine infrastructure or working with the latest technology to help keep British Columbian coastlines safe.

So what accounts for the initiative? “Geography dictates it,” said Watson, pointing to Victoria’s maritime location and related industries that stand to benefit from Canada’s national ship building program.

One way or another, maritime traffic along the B.C. coast will likely increase and the initiative will help towards the training of ship crews and officers for ferries, escort tugs and response vessels, said Watson.

Finally, the program also focuses on “establishing a gateway for under-represented groups,” especially First Nations, since the majority of B.C. coast is either First Nation land or the traditional territory of indigenous peoples.

Funding for the initiative comes from a wide variety of sources, including a combined $300,000 from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and Seaspan, $200,000 worth of equipment from B.C. Ferries, $150,000 from the Royal Bank of Canada Foundation, and $50,000 from the Ralmax Group of Companies.

This program is a great fit for the Ralmax Group of Companies, founding partner in the Coastal Skills Initiative, said Ian Maxwell, president and CEO.

“First, we know first-hand the many community benefits provided by the marine industry, given that we’ve got a number of marine-related companies like Point Hope Maritime,” he said in a release.  “We applaud an initiative that’s going to increase awareness of coastal issues as well as connect people to the many skilled work opportunities that exist in B.C.’s marine industry.”

Watson said coastal issues could play a bigger role outside the trade programs. They could play an increasingly important role in the college’s arts, health and business course programming, he said.

“It gives a unique focus to what we want to accomplish as a Vancouver Island college,” he said.

This said, he does not want to leave the impression that this will be the entire focus of the college.