Education Minister Ian Wishart announced $1.5 million in funding for skills training in Manitoba schools on Thursday, with Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School receiving almost a quarter of the budget for its collision repair program.
Out of a total 19 divisions across Manitoba to receive funding, Brandon School Division took home the most — $347,453 — to install a brand new paint booth in Crocus Plains collision repair shop.
"The equipment we’re using now is 30 years old. It’s outdated, it’s getting harder to maintain … if the current equipment went down, with that kind of cost I don’t know if the school division would have been able to keep us going," collision repair instructor Carl DeCosse said. "With this upgrade, it’s a sense of security. The biggest thing here is sustainability for the program as a whole. We’ve seen an increase in enrolment over the last few years and I think this will further that."
The investments were part of the Skills Strategy Equipment Enhancement Fund, which provides targeted funding to ensure students have access to up-to-date equipment to learn the skills needed to find jobs in Manitoba.
Applications for funding were approved based on what equipment was needed, the size of the program, as well as how fast the industry is changing, said Wishart.
"This is new technology … the equipment (at Crocus Plains) is really old and we need to train the kids on the new stuff, so this would be a fairly high priority because of that alone," Wishart said.
Making sure rural schools are also getting up-to-date technology is critical.
"It isn’t just an urban education system, it’s a Manitoban education system. We have to make sure we have it available in as many areas as possible," Wishart said. "We know that the need is everywhere. We want to train people with the latest technology so that they can actually function in any workplace in Manitoba."
The funding also ensures programming is relevant to current and future labour market needs, with an emphasis placed on supporting high school level programs to become accredited by Apprenticeship Manitoba.
"It’s the first time in Manitoba’s history that we’ve actually had the education system aligned with the trades and training —and we’re already finding examples like this where it works way better," Wishart said. "I think that there’s great potential to do more of that in the future."
BSD chair Kevan Sumner said this was a major step for not only the school and division, but for the community as well.
"It’s awesome for our students, it’s awesome for our division, but it’s also a major investment in Brandon," Sumner said. "We know that a lot of divisions are looking for a lot of things right now, so to have the province recognize the importance of this program is exceptional."
Two other school divisions in Westman received investments through SSEEF — Fort La Bosse School Division and Mountain View School Division.
Virden Collegiate received $64,925 for their automotive technology program, which will go toward a new four-wheel alignment machine and a four post car hoist, said FLBSD chair Garry Draper.
Grandview School’s woodworking program and the automotive technology and carpentry programs at Dauphin Regional Comprehensive Secondary School will also share $29,961 in funding.
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