CNC program plumbing the depths of pipefitting trades

Those with a penchant for pipes can expect a four-in-one certificate program starting next spring at the College of New Caledonia.

The piping foundation program will pick up its first students in February 2016. The 25-week program will train students in four trades: plumber, steamfitter/pipefitter, gasfitter and sprinkler system installer.

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That's a shift from the previous program that only offered foundation level plumbing, said instructor Dave Sewell.

"This will give students the opportunity to remain in the north while they complete their job training and pursue new employment options," said Sewell in the press release.

The new program is just being rolled out so the college doesn't know, but Frank Rossi said his sense is the four trade focus will make it popular.

"It allows the students to be more employable," said Rossi, who is dean of trades and technologies. "I'm sure the demand will be very, very high knowing that students will be able to have more than one certificate when they walk out the door."

It's the latest addition to a number of new trades streams that have been added at the college since Rossi came on board eight years ago.

In that time, the college has added to power engineering, plumbing, auto collision, auto finishing as well as more streams to millwright, electrical and heavy duty mechanics.

The college has seen a dip in its overall enrollments over the years, from almost 3,700 in 2008 to over 3,330 full-time students in 2013.

Of that most recent total 1,320 were in trades - or nearly 40 per cent.

In some areas, the college can't keep up with the demand. Its most popular trades are millwright, power engineering, heavy duty mechanics and electrical.

The heavy duty mechanics, for example, has a long wait list but the college is "maxed out" on space.

"One of the big challenges we have is finding qualified instructors," Rossi added. "They need the experience in the work field but they also have to have some experience in instructing."

It can also be hard to compete with an industry that will pay more than an instructor wage.

The college has apprenticeship programs for those in the industry, foundation for those seeking entry into a trade and for the Career Technical Training Centre, which targets high school students.

The college said the planned expansion of the liquefied natural gas industry in the north meant all piping trades should be in demand.

Graduates will gain a Level 1 classification for all four trades, the certification that will allow them to seek apprenticeships.

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