BCIT receives major donation from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to invest in expanding skilled trades opportunities for young people in BC

In an effort to expand early access to skills training and education, Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, in conjunction with Seaspan ULC and Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY), is donating $5.527 million to the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) to deliver trades training to high school students.

The funding will be used to establish a new Trades Foundation for Youth Program that will see BCIT providing technical training at four high schools for in-demand skilled trades: Piping, Electrical, Metal Fabrication, and Marine Fitter, marking a substantial investment that will significantly expand skilled trades opportunities for young people.

The program will be offered to students (Grades 11 and 12 as well as recent graduates) in schools located in the Vancouver, Surrey, Coquitlam, and Maple Ridge school districts. It is designed to ensure learners from under-represented populations, low‐income families, newcomers to BC, and those experiencing other barriers to education, can gain access to the skills and credentials needed to succeed in pursuing a career in the trades.

“I hear all the time that industry needs skilled trades people to meet workforce demands within the construction and marine sectors”, said Minister Bailey of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation. “That’s why we are so appreciative of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation’s commitment to helping more young people get access to the training they need to get good jobs and a secure future here in BC.”

“The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, in conjunction with Seaspan and SRY, is committed to increasing access to education and providing students with the chance to discover the tremendous opportunities in skilled trades. The partnership with BCIT will remove barriers to trades training and help hundreds of young minds gain valuable employment skills, explore the apprenticeship learning pathway and gain an earlier introduction to Red Seal trades certification,” said Mark Lamarre, President and CEO, Washington Companies.

It is expected the new programs will directly impact 400 high school students over the next seven years, and those completing the program will be able to begin work as apprentices in highly sought-after trades within the construction and marine sectors.

“As the largest trades training provider in Western Canada, with programs in construction, mechanical, and transportation trades, BCIT provides opportunities to meet the learning needs of workers and the workforce of the employer,” said Dr. Jeff Zabudsky, President, BCIT. “The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Trades Foundation for Youth Program – Building Futures Together Initiative builds on BCIT’s collaborative relationships with K-12 school districts, helping us to ensure that young people gain the valuable skills training and education in the trades.”

The funding will be invested in training space renovations at the high schools, equipment, BCIT instruction and materials, as well as safety gear, tools, textbooks and transportation costs all of which help remove barriers for schools and students. The program includes two 28‐week courses in Piping and a multi-week course in Electrical, as well as supports for an existing at‐risk Metal Fabrication program and the addition of a three‐week Marine Fitter Level 1 course. The curriculum for the new programs will be developed by BCIT through close consultation with industry and delivered by instructors with direct, hands‐on experience.

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation’s $5.527 million investment will allow the Trades Foundation for Youth Program to run for seven years, with preparation and renovation work beginning during the 2023/2024 school year.


Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills

“Giving high school students the chance to receive technical training for in-demand skilled trades is a key way we will fill an expected 83,000 job openings in the skilled trades over the next decade. Donations such as this one from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation encourages youth through the Trades Foundation for Youth Program to try out a trade and for many, it may mean a long-lasting, good-paying career that they will enjoy.”

About the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation is the major philanthropic organization for The Washington Companies and the Washington Family. The Foundation strives to better the human condition by supporting programs and services that give people the tools to enhance the quality of their lives and to benefit society as a whole. Funding for the Foundation comes from personal contributions from the Washington Family and annual contributions from The Washington Companies.

About BCIT

For nearly 60 years, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) has been delivering flexible, relevant, and future-proof education that prepares learners to provide applied solutions to industry challenges. As one of BC’s largest post-secondary institutes with five campuses, 300+ programs, and over 45,000 students enrolled each year, BCIT connects education, industry, and government in building an agile workforce. The BCIT curriculum is developed through close consultation with industry, and delivered by faculty who have hands-on experience in their fields. Students gain the technical skills and real-world experience needed to lead innovation in their workplaces and communities.

A new era is underway at BCIT. Learn more about the INSPIRE Campaign.

Leave a comment