Vancouver Island University is expected to use $1 million from the federal government to enhance hands-on training for trades students.

The university will use the Western Diversification Program money to purchase equipment for a mobile forestry skills training program. It is expected to benefit students associated with the forest industry, including hand fallers, logging truck drivers and forestry technicians.

“What it will be is a truck and a trailer and it will house a number of simulators from load building equipment-type simulators to forestry simulators, so the truck could have anywhere from six to eight simulators in it. The simulators are quite real-life, they actually move,” said Glynis Steen, interim dean of trades and applied technology.

Since the unit will be mobile, it can be moved across the Island to remote communities, providing students in those areas access to training.

Steen said it will provide a safe learning environment and less wear-and-tear on actual equipment.

The university is currently researching and shopping around and it is anticipated the truck, trailer and simulators will be on site by late December. Steen said the simulation equipment will be a large expense.

“You can be talking anywhere from $70,000 to $80,000 for a simulator, so if you’re looking at buying anywhere from eight to 10 simulators, a lot of your expense is going to be going [there],” said Steen.

Michelle Rempel, Canada’s minister of state for western economic diversification, said the government has been looking at ways to ensure the forestry industry is sustainable and productive. Part of that is providing it with the skilled labour it needs.

“That’s why were looking at it from a multi-faceted approach and certainly [Thursday’s] announcement to provide mobile skills training … and bring that skills training to people in rural and remote communities, I think is a positive thing for the sector as a whole,” said Rempel.