Union wants to build training centre

The college is too small to train enough pipefitters, plumbers, electricians and carpenters for the territory, says the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry.

A new training centre for mechanical trades may one day compete with Yukon College for enrollment.

The college is too small to train enough pipefitters, plumbers, electricians and carpenters for the territory, says the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry.

“The Yukon’s tax base can’t afford it,” said Don Austin, the union’s representative in Yukon.

“We’re talking about a multi-million dollar investment,” he said.

The union spends over $130 million on training at over 400 training centres across Canada and the United States, says its website.

The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency gave the union $93,250 last week to write a business plan on the potential for a training centre here.

The union can provide a better training centre and could handle more trainees than the college, which already provides training in plumbing, electrical and carpentry, said Austin.

“To bring a certain calibre of training, you need a substantial amount of money,” he said.

The union will bring its expertise to Yukon programs developed in training centres down south, he said.

The pipefitting union is spearheading the new training centre, but all mechanical trades will be taught there, he added.

The training centre has been on the table since 2005 when the union signed an agreement with Yukon First Nations to help expand training and employment in rural Yukon, he said.

While Whitehorse has an unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent, the rate is 22.6 per cent in rural Yukon.

Many mining companies bring Outside mechanical tradespeople to work on their projects, said Austin.

“Yukon Zinc is a prime example,” he said, referring to the company running the Wolverine mine outside Ross River.

“I would say 95 per cent, if not 100 per cent (of it’s tradespeople) are from Outside,” he said.

The union, which boasts 85 members in Yukon, is posting $30,000 for the business plan.

The union is receiving public money because the centre won’t be restricted to its members, said Austin.

Non-members and the members of other unions would be able to train there, he said.

The business plan should be completed by February or early March, he said.

The college could not be contacted for comment by press time.

However, its website says the plumbing program is currently under review.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com