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Sault College upgrading engineering school with $5.2M renovation

Construction on 8,000-square-foot space slated to be complete by September
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A Sault College robotics student is pictured in the lab on April 14, 2022.

Sault MPP Ross Romano announced $2 million in NOHFC funding on April 13 for the renovation of existing space at Sault College, which will be home to the post-secondary institution’s School of Engineering.

Romano made the announcement at the college.

Romano said having a School of Engineering, including Sault College’s new Bachelor of Engineering – Mechatronics degree program, taught in partnership with Humber College, means Saultites can learn and graduate with in-demand engineering skills at home and have good-paying careers in the community.

“It’s so important to make sure that we have a pipeline of talent for so many of the great jobs that exist right in our own city,” Romano told SooToday after the announcement.

“We’ve heard that we have a major shortage of engineers here in Sault Ste. Marie and the advanced manufacturing sector relies on those positions. Those are critical jobs that we need and, in fact, a lot of employers are out there taking students out of programs before they even graduate because of the level of the shortage.”

Romano said major local industries such as Algoma Steel and Tenaris have shown their support for the program in their need of engineering graduates, particularly Algoma as it begins its transition to electric arc steelmaking.

The total cost of renovating existing space for the School of Engineering is $5.2 million.

The space will be 8,000 square feet in size.

Apart from provincial funding, the renovation will be funded by local industry partners, the City of Sault Ste. Marie, and the college’s own reserves.

“There are going to be four components to the space,” said Colin Kirkwood, the college's vice-president of academic.

“One is going to be for laboratories not unlike our robotics lab. We’ll have automation and mechatronics for that area. Then we’re going to have an area for student projects. The idea is that the students are going to work with local companies for prototyping or solve problems that they have in their operations.”

There will also be classroom space and a study space with a mezzanine for students to use.

“As of this morning, we're on target to have construction completed by September 2022 and the intent is for new inbound students to have access to that space for their studies. That’s the target right now. There are some supply chain issues with some things but we’re optimistic for September,” Kirkwood said.

Sault College anticipates 15 students in the Mechatronics program this fall, working up to 30 students in subsequent years.

Mechatronics covers civil, mechanical, electrical/electronic and computer engineering.

Graduates will work in advanced manufacturing, energy, health care and pharmaceuticals.

“By its fifth year of operation, the facility will accommodate an estimated 100 engineering students and have created a number of well-paying jobs for professors, lab instructors and program administrative staff,” Romano said in a release.

“The graduates are going to go through a program that gives them the skills that employers need. We see Algoma Steel with their electric arc furnace project. We’ve talked to them about the big fit this program has with the talent requirements they have. For sure the grads are going to be trained for jobs in Sault Ste. Marie,” Kirkwood said.

Romano added that the Facilities Renewal Fund, through which smaller colleges used to receive $259,900 a year for infrastructure improvements, renovations or maintenance has received a boost.

Romano said the formula has been changed with smaller colleges like Sault College now receiving $2 million a year.

— SooToday