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Colleges keeping pace with industry.

Many Northern Ontario colleges are feeling increasing pressure from industry and government alike, who are looking more and more to them to produce greater numbers of graduates in the fields of skilled trades.


As an example of the growing severity of the problem, the Mining Industry Training and Adjustment Council (Canada) projected in a 2006 report that 81,000 new workers will be needed within the mining industry in the next 10 years. This demand is compounded by the fact that 40 per cent of the sector's work force is slated to retire in that time.

General awareness of this need has grown so much that Sudbury's Cambrian College is seeing record numbers in skilled trades enrolment. For the 2006-2007 academic year, more than 1,000 students and apprentices are making use of the school's skilled trades programs.

"We're seeing about 200 to 300 more apprentices than usual," says Michel Barbeau, dean, School of Skills Training /Sky-Tech.

"Students are starting to really see the skill shortage, and they're understanding that there are immediate job opportunities."

In an attempt to cope with this rapidly growing need, Bar-beau says the school is pursuing the creation of an additional $130,000 machining lab. With 12 stations featuring lathes, mills and grinders and space for another four or five stations, the new lab will help to reduce significant training bottlenecks by allowing 50 to 80 more apprentices to be trained per year. However, even this will not fully cope with the backlog; in the millwright program alone, the waiting list features 80 people.

It's not just the mining industry that's finding itself short on labour. Companies from the trucking industry have also approached the college to develop a truck and coach technician program, which is still being developed and is tentatively slated for a September 2008 kick-off date.

As part of its own strategy for coping with the growing deficit within the field of skilled trades, College Boreal is pursuing a multi-phase project to expand its capacity to produce more graduates.

The first phase was completed in September with the construction of a new 70,000-square-foot Institute of Trades and Applied Technology, which will help the college to produce an additional 12,000 apprentices in the next five years. No timelines have been released on the remaining two phases, which will include the construction of a new 65,000-square-foot campus in Timmins, and additional extensions to the Sudbury site. With these initiatives in place, Boreal expects to be able to expand its trades offerings from 13 to 30 within the next 10 years, with the industrial millwright and electrical technician being offered at the Sudbury campus as early as September 2007.

"Our focus is very strongly on the field of skilled trades," says Daniel Giroux, vice-president, Enterprises Boreal. "We're making it our mission to move forward and make sure that we have enough systems in place to try and compensate."

With a coverage area extending into the Far North, Northern College is working with First Nations and other communities in an effort to cope with the needs for skilled trades in the region.

To reach out to prospective students in Kaschechewan, Attawapiskat and Moosonee, the school makes use of what Debbie Donovan, apprenticeship program development officer, refers to as "hybrid educational formats."

As many residents must remain in their communities to feed their families, spending an entire 40-week program in Timmins to learn a trade may not be economically feasible. To compensate, Northern offers as much theory as possible through distance education and teleconferencing services. This drives down the amount of time spent outside of the community to 12 weeks.

"With all the exploration that's going up in the Far North, more and more companies are struggling to find qualified people, and there's a commitment to hire locals," says Donovan. "They need training, and they're typically pretty far from training institutions, so we're trying to fit those needs."


Northern Ontario Business
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Author:Stewart, Nick
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Feb 1, 2007
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