Wider Horizons
Because buildings mean nothing unless they’re filled, as the enthusiastic crowd observed walking through the south entrance of the new Trades, Technologies and Innovation Facility for the first time at the official opening in September.

It all started with one – one dream, one prairie landscape and one building. And Lethbridge Junior College’s trades and technologies programming started in 1957 with one student taking one trade.

But like any start, there’s a risk of a stop. The apprenticeship board in Alberta was reluctant to certify new programs at the time, and that one student with his uncertified new skills walked away unrewarded.

So college trailblazers tried again and efforts turned tangible when, in the fall of 1964, the first director of vocational education, James Twa, was given the go-ahead to run first-year apprentices for Motor Mechanics, Welding and Appliance Service.

Momentum built. They opened a school of technology and added second-year apprenticeships. They innovated, invented and gambled. It was, as some described it, “courage with a bit of recklessness.” And it worked. Industry started partnering with the college and students began working alongside industry, interacting with innovative design first-hand and in real time.

With expanding programs and the encouragement of an oil boom, Lethbridge College opened the trades and technology building in 1983 and started equipping students from 20 programs with expertise. Programming growth paralleled the growth in technology. Hand tools became automated, and time-intense labour gave way to new efficiencies. Students started working with computers, software and smart technology. Today, technology like 3D visualization and virtual reality immerse students in experiential training like never before.

Now, visitors and students can come to a building that will change the city, region and province’s economic landscape. When they do, they will be surrounded by the most technologically-advanced, environmentally-friendly trades and technologies training space in southern Alberta.

That building is 168,812 square feet with 24.1 miles of in-floor heating pipe, 6,800 square feet of glazing, 62,100 exterior bricks, 168 light tubes, 20.4 miles of IT cable and 11 Big Ass fans (yeah, that’s what they’re called). The new Trades, Technologies and Innovation Facility was designed to use 30 per cent of materials from regional sources and 21 per cent recycled materials. Over 80 per cent of the waste from the construction project has been diverted from the landfills.

The facility houses eight trades programs and four technology program areas. A total of 880 additional students will walk these college halls because of this building and its people.

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers. And they mean nothing unless we go back to one. A visionary here, an advocate there. A faculty member who dismisses the number on a clock to give hands-on help to a student.

An industry partner who sees unbridled potential in the young people in her community. A student who entrusts us with his future. A donor who gives and passes on a legacy. Because buildings mean nothing unless they’re filled. And one by one, the people of Lethbridge College, their partners, their community members, have been filling this region of Alberta with a spirit of ingenuity and inventiveness.

Watch the video that inspired this story:

Wider Horizons
Story by Elisabeth Morgan | Photo by Gregory Thiessen
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