When John Bockstael made the decision to donate to Red River College’s Skilled Trades and Technology Centre, he knew he would be providing an opportunity for generations of Manitobans to receive high-quality education and training.
“It’s not basement learning,” says Bockstael, the President and CEO of Bockstael Construction Ltd. “The College’s programs are hands-on right from the beginning and highly practical. There’s a direct correlation between the classroom process and what’s done on a work site.”
Bockstael was the first donor to the 104,000 square-foot facility, which opened its doors to students in Fall 2018. The building acts as a celebration of the trades and technologies, and allows the College to train an additional 1,000 students every year.
“The skilled trades need talent. It takes knowledgeable people — you have to have a good head on your shoulders,” he says. “Anybody who gets into construction now is getting into it at a time where we’re becoming more and more advanced in our technologies and processes. You still have to pound a nail and drill a hole as part of the job — but what we need is highly skilled, quick thinking people.”
Bockstael Construction has been in operation since 1912, and has built and renovated many prominent buildings in Manitoba, including the VIA Rail Winnipeg Union Station, the Canada Games Sport for Life Centre, and the newest, the Richardson Innovation Centre. In 2009, Bockstael completed construction on RRC’s Jan den Oudsten Vehicle Technology and Research Centre (formerly the Heavy Equipment and Transportation Centre), one of the first education centres in Manitoba to receive LEED® Silver certification from the Canada Green Building Council.
It’s rewarding for Bockstael to be able to give back, knowing that his future employees will be trained in the STTC. He says that in an ever-changing industry, RRC has been very responsive in advancing the needs of businesses, and has adapted its programs to be able to train new skilled workers, while providing re-skilling for workers who are in the middle of their careers.
“At the time we committed to our pledge, we were experiencing a real shortage of skilled trades workers,” he says. “In a way I was fulfilling a business need. Your business thrives and is driven by the workforce that you hire.”
Bockstael says that although construction has adapted to include more technology, the satisfaction of a job well done remains at the core for skilled workers. “There’s so much independence that individual tradespeople can derive for themselves. People can look back when a project is done and say ‘I was a part of that’ — there’s a lot of pride in their work,” he says. “That’s something tangible at the end of the day that seems to resonate with everyone from engineers to labourers.”
The Bockstael Construction Labs are located at the east end of the Skilled Trades and Technology Centre, and are used by hundreds of students every day.
We are grateful to John Bockstael and Bockstael Construction Ltd. for their contribution to the Skilled Trades and Technology Centre. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we had to postpone the celebration honouring Bockstael Construction Ltd. — and all donors to the STTC — originally planned for April 15, 2020. We will reschedule this event when it is safe to celebrate together.