The handymen at Vancouver Island University are going to be busy this year repairing roofs, elevators and upgrading the fire alarm system thanks to $3.4 million in capital infrastructure funding from the provincial government.
The Ministry of Advance Education made the announcement Wednesday. It also announced a one-time funding allocation of $600,000 for short-term training opportunities, which VIU is directing toward trades.
Steve Beasley, executive director of the VIU Students’ Union, said the funding announcement is disingenuous because the money being awarded is only part of the funding the university has had clawed back over the years.
“It’s a vanity project for the Minister of Advanced Education,” said Beasley.
He said the move is creative accounting and a way for the government to take credit for standard repair costs that should have been addressed through the university’s annual capital allowance. He said the new process adds more administration and costs more money and is an “inefficient and ridiculous process.”
Ralph Nilson, president of Vancouver Island University, said the university used to receive more than $2 million each year in its annual capital allowance, but it received $500,000 this year. He said the new model means that universities must create a proposal identifying priorities and apply to a central pot of money, which the government then doles out.
Nilson said the university received a little bit more money than it usually would have through the annual capital allowance funding.
“We’re very pleased to receive this funding,” said Nilson.
The infrastructure money will be used to repair and replace roofs, upgrade ventilation systems in trades’ buildings where expanded welding programs will occur to ensure safety and maintain elevators.
The entire university’s fire alarm system will also be upgraded. Nilson said the system is antiquated and the university wants to ensure it’s up to date in case of an incident.
Nilson said budgets are tight and the university has been required to do some belt tightening because the funding received by government hasn’t kept up costs to run the university.
The $600,000 for trades programs will allow the university to add an additional three months of training to the welder program to make students more versatile for work in the industry; support the culinary arts second year diploma program to incorporate management skills and allow students to complete their apprenticeship; and develop a power engineering program.
The power engineering program will train students how to run large industrial boilers.
Fred MacDonald, dean of trades and applied technology for VIU, said workers with this type of training are in high demand for jobs in pulp mills and hospital boiler rooms and there is demand for workers in northern B.C.
MacDonald said half the training programs that will benefit from the $600,000 in funding have already started.