Though the economy remains depressed, some uplifting news for Dawson Creek came Aug. 22 in the form of $33 million to build a new trades training centre on the Northern Lights College (NLC) campus.
The project is funded by contributions from the federal government, the province and industry.
The state-of-the-art facility will expand the current Energy House and Campus Centre buildings to create new training spaces for the welding, carpentry and wind turbine maintenance programs. The centre will add a new feel to the campus with its combination of heavy timber and steel.
"This project is long overdue," NLC president Bryn Kulmatycki said.
The architectural design will feature a small rooftop garden which will help reduce heat loss in the winter, as well as a fully-lighted display of the northern lights that will face 8th Street.
The original trades buildings at the college were built in the 1950s and were supplied to NLC by the Canadian military following the deconstruction of the Distance Early Warning (DEW) Line — a system of radar stations in the northern and Arctic regions set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War and provide an early warning for a land-based invasion.
Two large buildings and several other smaller ones that have already been decommissioned will be torn down to make way for the new centre.
Building permits are already in place and were obtained during previous meetings with the city in order to keep the announcement under wraps, according to Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier.
The tender process for the construction has already begun. Bids close Sept. 28 and work on the project will begin immediately after that, Kulmatycki said.
"The buildings that exist today are vintage buildings," he said. "(They) do not have enough power to run welders, they're energy inefficient — we lose heat and we can't keep them warm in the winter. There's all kind of issues."
The $14.57-million federal contribution comes from the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund. The province kicked in $15.06 million, and $3.39 million came from companies including Canbriam Energy Inc., Encana Corp., Shell Canada, and TransCanada Ltd.
Bernier said the economic downturn, brought on by the low price of oil and natural gas, is a chance for those who are out of work to return to school and retrain.
Kulmatycki said enrolment at the college has been flat throughout the downturn, as he expected. However, there is a significant increase in international students set to begin courses at the college this year.
The new building will support the Foundation Trades program at NLC, which has enrolment intakes in September and February.
According to handout from the event, the project itself will create 235 direct and indirect jobs during construction.