NBCC Saint John opens new Trades Education Centre as workforce shortage looms

WATCH: New NBCC facility in Saint John to address need for skilled trades workers.

At the age of 49, Perry Peterson decided to go back to school and pursue a passion and a hobby.

“To build hot rods,” he said.

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Peterson is an honours student in the Auto Body Repair and Painting course offered at the Saint John campus of the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC).

The trade is among those offered at the new $13.5 million Trades Education Centre located in Saint John.

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Plans for the facility were first announced in September of 2016 and although the facility has been operational since September, the official opening was held on Monday.

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Skilled trades workers are just one of the gaps expected with an anticipated major dwindling of the workforce.

“Over the next 10 years there’s going to be a 120,000 New Brunswickers leave the workforce mainly due to retirement,” said Trevor Holder, the province’s Post-Secondary Education Minister, on Monday.

“Let’s put that in perspective. That’s a population the size of greater Saint John.”

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Holder says it’s vital for New Brunswick to grow its population and be able to fill the jobs, many of which will require college or apprenticeship training.

“Knowing this it will be extremely important for us to ensure that our population’s skills and education align with the expected labour market demands,” he explained.

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Peterson says the ability to learn in a state of the art environment is already bearing fruit.

“With the new technology that this new shop has brought I’ve already been out working over the March break,” said Peterson.

“I fit right in with the group in at the body shop.”

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Officials with NBCC says its vision fits in with the needs of the future.

“The hands-on learning that they are obtaining at NBCC will set them apart from applicants as they seek employment,” said Lindsay Bowman, Vice-chair of NBCC’s Board of Governors.

The province contributed $6.65 million to the new building with the federal government providing $6.74 million.

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