Assiniboine Community College’s North Hill welding shop will have to go through a major overhaul this summer to replace faulty gas lines.
Barry Gooden, dean of the School of Trades and Technology, said he is confident the work, which will be done by Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation, will be complete for the fall semester.
"They’ll basically strip out all of the gas lines that were leaking and to do that, they’ve got to go into the walls," Gooden said. "They’ll have a new design that they can trust will be safe and … they won’t be fixing in three years from now."
The shop, which is located in the $46-million Len Evans Centre for Trades and Technology, opened in the fall of 2010.
Last week, gas leaks forced the college to shut down the welding facility, following an inspection by the Office of the Fire Commissioner.
More than 40 students are affected. They have been spending full days in the classroom working on the theory aspect of their course while the college and MIT came up with a solution.
"It’s been brutal for everybody," said one welding student who didn’t want to be named. "We’re all getting lower marks. It’s basically one test every single day."
Students are concerned about retaining the fast-tracked theory lessons for upcoming Interprovincial Red Seal exams.
"Theory, we’ve been short-changed on," he said. "They should want us to learn, they should want us to understand."
The college and MIT were looking at two possible short-term solutions: going back to the Victoria Avenue East welding shop, which was decommissioned, or using portable gas tanks in the existing North Hill facility.
After a number of meetings, the decision was made to keep the students on the North Hill.
"The added value here is we are able to get the bottom and the top level (of the shop) back functional so that we could manage our two apprenticeship levels, and our three related welding groups," Gooden said.
A plan was developed, and Gooden received official approval from the OFC Wednesday. Students will be back in the shop on Tuesday, where they will spend the following two weeks in the shop doing practical work before the term ends March 1.
"At the end of the day, they get the same number of hours in the shop, as they would’ve gotten and exactly the same number of hours in the classroom," Gooden said.
Gooden stressed there is no safety concern for students or teachers.
"Those gas lines that we were using before, they are completely shut off … there’s no capacity to use them at all," he said. "So that whole system is just not being used. What’s being used is individual bottles, which are controlled individually instead of through a whole manifold system."
Some students aren’t pleased with the decision.
"We should have gone to the old campus, finished everything and done everything properly there," said one welding student. "We should have gone over there immediately and we could have kept everything the same."
Meanwhile, the college will be working on another short-term plan for the term that begins March 4, as those welding courses require a different curriculum.
"We’re well on our way to having a short-term solution that would get us through to the end of June," Gooden said. "That’s been our goal all along … to take care of our current students, knowing we couldn’t use … the gas lines, and flip it to bottles, making sure we’re following all of the fire codes."
A provincial spokesperson with MIT confirmed a permanent solution will be in place for the fall semester. An estimated cost for the project wasn’t available, however as MIT is the building owner, Gooden explained the cost would be covered by the province.
Gooden said those interested in ACC’s welding courses should still register as usual.
"We’re positive about the short-term solution and we’re feeling good about the long-term solution," he said.
Issues with the gas lines were present years ago, one of several challenges the new facility has faced since it opened in 2010.
"It’s unfortunate that it had to happen," Gooden said. "I have to honestly give our teachers and the students they’ve had over the last three years a lot of credit for being resilient and managing through all of this. I think the bottom line is that we’re all working together to get it right this time."
Gooden said the "silver lining" is the fact that the college’s welding team will be part of the planning when the province looks to re-do the shop this summer.
"We’re going to have lots of input," he said. "It will be a real partnership with MIT to get it right."