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B.C. school becomes center for Canadian techs

Posted Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009, 4:21 pm in Employee International

clarkpennerlesLess than one year after being granted university status, the University of the Fraser Valley in Chilliwack, British Columbia, is making good on one of B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell’s key priorities for the institution and for the province.

In April 2008, Campbell singled out the school as being the future location for an advanced vehicle technology center. This month, Fraser Valley will formally announce a partnership with Chrysler Canada that has the university’s Trades and Technology Centre in Chilliwack serving as the major center for the company’s advanced training in that province. The partnership involves provisions for training space as well as tools, equipment, and training curricula valued at more than $200,000.

“BC has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent by 2020,” said Barry Penner, minister of environment and minister responsible for climate action and a member of the province’s legislative assembly. “Adopting and supporting new, cleaner modes of transportation is a key part of this goal, and UFV is helping us achieve that by combining research and trades education.”

The commitment by Chrysler Canada was the catalyst for Fraser Valley to activate the space previously allotted for an advanced vehicle technology center. Chrysler Canada has equipped the facility with everything needed to operate its training center and also makes use of the existing automotive shops. Chrysler Canada training experts will deliver instruction in the space and share learning materials with Fraser Valley instructors and students, keeping them abreast of the latest developments in technology and fuel alternatives.

“Chrysler Canada is committed to training our dealership technicians to keep them up-to-date with technology advances—including hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles,” John Bolton, National Manager—Service Training and Equipment Programs, Chrysler Canada, said. “We were attracted to UFV by its recent move to university status, the easily accessible location of its Trades and Technology Centre in Chilliwack, and the willingness of the faculty, staff, and students to welcome us into their learning environment. We have been working together for several months now and have nothing but praise for our new partners at UFV.”

Mitch Lalonde, a mechanic from Northland Dodge in Prince George, B.C., was one of the first trainees at the center and spent his time upgrading to stay competitive in his field. “As a technician, I’m always trying to keep up with changes, especially in fuel systems,” Lalonde said. “When you’re dealing with people’s vehicles, they turn to you when they need help. You really have to stay on top of the technology.”

At any one time, there are up to 10 new Chrysler, Jeep® or Dodge vehicles on the school’s site, including vehicles that have not yet been introduced in Canada. Fraser Valley has access to vehicles such as the legendary Dodge Challenger, the award-winning Dodge Ram pickup and a state-of-the-art hybrid-equipped model. Students are able to explore a variety of engines, including the iconic Dodge Viper V-10, and have access to extensive learning materials, tools and equipment from Chrysler Canada.

“This partnership is a classic win-win situation,” Harv McCullough, dean of trades and technology at Fraser Valley, said “Together with Chrysler Canada, we are developing a centre of excellence in auto service training, exposing B.C. students to leading-edge technologies and creating ongoing professional development for our instructors. It’s also very appealing to prospective students considering our automotive programs.”

McCullough anticipates that this partnership will also encourage other major businesses to consider Fraser Valley for possible investments and partnerships. The Trades and Technology Centre is well known throughout the local business community and has already established close ties with many local vendors.

The local economy also benefits from the Fraser Valley/Chrysler Canada partnership. Out-of-town Chrysler Canada instructors and technicians frequent area businesses such as hotels and restaurants as they help prepare students for a successful future in the automotive industry.

Fraser Valley currently offers an entry-level automotive service technician certificate, an automotive apprenticeship training program and a bachelor of business administration degree in trades management. A new certificate program in automotive collision repair and refinishing will be launched this coming September.
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