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KPU students thrive in online trades program

KPU students thrive in online trades program

Mon, Sep 26, 2022
Mary Wilton

In 20 weeks of instruction, Samir Ibrahim never missed a class.

The Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) student recently completed the parts, warehousing, logistics and distribution foundation program with high marks. Perfect attendance was easy thanks to a training program offered entirely online.

“I really enjoyed the program being online due to the fact I could make it to every single class,” says Ibrahim, a Vancouverite who now works as a parts person for Leavitt Machinery. “A few of my classmates were telecommuting from the B.C. Interior.”

Trades programs offered a mix of in-person and online learning during the pandemic. Most have returned to full in-person instruction at KPU’s Tech campus in Cloverdale, Surrey, but the parts program remains online – the only trade in the Faculty of Trades and Technology to offer remote learning exclusively.

Laura McDonald, dean of Faculty of Trades and Technology, says the course being online gives students greater flexibility and allows KPU to expand its reach.

“It’s allowed us to now offer the program across B.C., and we’re hoping we can eventually offer it across Canada,” she says.

One of the many Red Seal trades available in Canada, parts, warehousing, logistics and distribution is a trade in demand. The KPU program prepares students for employment in the parts and service industry. They train in ordering, warehousing and keeping inventory control over parts and accessories for industries such as automotive, commercial transport, heavy duty, marine, mining and agriculture.

KPU offers both foundation and apprenticeship training. The foundation program is designed for students who have little to no experience in the trade but want to build skills employers are looking for while getting a jump on an apprenticeship – a three-level program, each requiring three weeks of technical training.

Despite not physically being among parts in a warehouse, students like Megan Watson easily found her footing with online instruction.

"I started the program with no experience and was able to pick up everything through the instructor’s thorough explanation and visual aids," says Watson.

Instructor Mary Wilton delivers live online lessons to her students, allowing students to ask questions and participate in the lessons. Students not only learn theory, but also learn about the parts – up close on their computer screens.

“I’ve been really excited by it,” says Wilton. “This has opened up such possibilities.”

In the past, apprentices from across B.C. would have to leave work and find accommodation for annual training. Now they can complete the classroom learning where they live and work.

“Employers like it because they’re not having their apprentices disappear,” says Wilton. “Half my class this year wouldn’t have been there had it not been online.”

Foundation students benefit from hands-on training during a work experience practicum that can be completed at workplaces in their home communities.

“If someone’s online from Fort St. John and it’s time to do some work experience, I can call the people in Fort St. John,” says Wilton. “I place them in work experience in their community.”

Demand for skilled parts workers is high, particularly in resource industries outside of the Lower Mainland. Wilton says graduates of the most recent foundation program each received at least two job offers.

“There isn’t a place that isn’t looking, and the smart employers will grab a good one. Even if they don’t have a spot for them, they’ll make a spot to keep them.”