Community consultations: Canadore College responds to industry needs.
Fuollowing a pent-up demand over the past few years for specific graduates, Canadore College in North Bay has responded by offering a new program.Civil engineering technician, offered in the fall of 2011, is a two-year course that is filling a requirement requested by some industries.
For Tracie Marsh-Fior, dean of Canadore's Commerce Court campus, civil engineering technician offers a specific core program that those in the mining, transportation and construction industries have been looking for.
"Prior to me coming to the college, I worked on a contract for the North Bay Economic Department which was undergoing a business retention and expansion survey of local businesses and companies," she said.
It was there she got a sense of what the needs of the business community were and what was preventing them from growing and expanding.She was sometimes told of the need for skilled employees.
"When I started at the college, one of my roles was to be involved with the local branch of the Canadian Institute of Mining and the need for engineering employees was stressed over and over again," Marsh-Fior said.
Numerous community consultations were held with representatives from the mining, transportation and construction industries.
"We flushed out what they were looking for," she said. "It wasn't mining engineers but there were certain key things they all wanted which was a strong, core program and they could train the graduates to suit their industries."
All three industries wanted skills that included. computer-aided design (CAD) and some technical expertise. When the program was developed, the community involvement from the industries continued.
"They were very much involved," Marsh-Fior said. "From that involvement we flushed out what the program would look like and then we got through the internal approvals and it was launched."
In addition to CAD, the students learn project management, applied strength of materials, surveying and GPS, highway/ road design and planning and design and construction of infrastructure.
Despite hitting the cycle of recruitment late, in April of 2011, enrolment exceeded expectations.
"Coming on board in the spring is truly late to start something in the fall," she said. "We thought if we could get 12 or 15 students, we would be happy. Instead, we ended up with 30 and we were thrilled."
Enrolment for this fall looks just as promising.
"We were really pleased with the way it has turned out. For me, it was a great experience to see the need expressed at the local level and then see the evolution of the program and its launch and be involved in all of that," Marsh-Fior said.
Although the program is still in its first year, employers have been inquiring about the program's graduates.
"Whether it is for summer jobs or when they will graduate, we get regular calls or people dropping in interested in our civil engineering technician students."
The current students, which include females, are a mix of mature students and recent high school graduates.
"When you talk about a community college, you truly want to be able to respond to the community's needs," she said. "Now we are looking at the potential of having a mechanical engineering program and discussions are to start soon. We will also be looking at the same kind of consultations we have done with the civil engineering program."
Although engineering is science based, Marsh-Fior said getting high school students interested in the trades is still a struggle.
"Kids coming up through high school don't have the same facilities as much as they used to, that would give a taste of the trades, so it is difficult without that. In my opinion, it is still an uphill battle, getting people to consider the trades. But there is job security, if you are good at what you do, and always a demand."
By LIZ COWAN Northern Ontario Business