Durham College skilled-trades centre expansion in Whitby on track to open this year

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Durham College campus expansion on track in Whitby
WATCH: In the next few months Durham College is set to take ownership of their new skilled trades centre in Whitby. The centre will not only offer expanded space for students, but allow the college to accept hundreds more students every year. Frazer Snowdon has more – Mar 2, 2021

Durham College students will soon have a lot more room to spread out at their trades-focused school in Whitby.

The addition will not only give more space, but will allow the college to welcome more students to their trades programs — a goal that college president Don Lovisa says they have been trying to reach for years.

“We hear from every part of the industry, everybody is talking about skills shortages,” says Lovisa. “For us, the inn was full.”

The 60,000 square foot facility will increase their footprint and allow for more than 750 additional students on their Whitby campus every year.

That growth will mainly bring expanded class workspace for their plumbing, electrical and elevator tech programs, and it’s a welcome addition for students and teachers.

“We’re looking forward to improving our labs for the students, making them more functional,” says Richard Lamarche, the school’s plumbing coordinator.

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Each workspace will be expanded, giving students more than double the capacity in some instances. The elevating devices program will go to 10,000 square feet, compared to just 4,000 square feet right now. Currently it’s set up in the millwright workshop, as the two trades do have some crossover. But the program coordinator, Allan Lockyer, says the new building will help them be better equipped for the real world.

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“In here, the people will be able to work on things and go directly into the field and that’s the same thing,” says Lockyer.

The plumbing department will also go from 8,000 square feet to nearly 13,000, and a larger space for the electrical program, as well.

“This expansion is almost like reigniting our roots a bit,” says Tony Doyle, Dean of Hospitality and Horticultural Science. “We were born out of skilled trades but now we’re allowing to continue to grow.”

On top of the double-height shop lab, the new centre for skilled trades will also offer a workout space, event room and other classroom spaces — all additional spots that will help their school grow.

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Although the new building will give them more space and help cure the bottleneck issues they face with demand, officials say it will also give them the option to offer more in the future.

“This will allow us to expand programs not only using this facility, but all the programs that exist,” says Lovisa. “Also, the backfill to the building will give us the ability to expand other programs as well.”

That’s something that will also help with the major shortage of the skilled trades workers. At this time, the construction industry is facing a shortage of more than 20,000 personnel, due to the retirement of senior trades workers.

Doyle believes buildings like this one will have a large impact on this need.

“The demand has been huge. It’s been significant for years,” says Doyle. “This expansion is going to provide immediate relief. But we know the demand is going to continue.

“Our programs are in demand because of our reputation, because of the track record we have. We’re very excited about everything this expansion is going to bring.”

Students will be able to set foot into the brand-new building starting September.

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