The trades are on fire right now in Northern Ontario and it's never been so important for training and education institutions to understand the needs of the industry.
Cambrian College works to provide programming that supports local demand, gives students hands-on experience and connects them to opportunities in the real world.
At a Sept. 12 event organized by the Cambrian Foundation, an organization that works with the college to fund student programs, the school said thank you to some of its corporate donors who have made this kind of education possible.
The college honoured seven different companies for donating nearly $5 million in equipment to the Heavy Equipment Technician program over the past 15 years. The donations include anything from jacklegs, scooptrams and backhoes, to diesel engines, Mack trucks and roller crusher gear.
The Heavy Equipment Technician Program teaches students the basics of diesel engines, power trains, electrical systems, hydraulic systems and brake systems in the first year. Courses include an emphasis on safety and have a co-op option to combine apprenticeship training with classroom study.
Many of the representatives of each company in attendance were alumni of Cambrian College themselves.
Peter Burrell, who started out as a mechanic and now works in sales at Minecat, graduated from Cambrian College in 1995. It was through the Heavy Equipment program that he learned the skills necessary for his success.
“The program was well-done when I was there,” he said in an interview. “We learned on the equipment companies we were actually using underground.”
“Now, it feels like we've come full circle. We donate, we volunteer. We need to create these kinds of partnerships. It's a community college and communities need a step up.”
The companies honoured at the event include Vale, Glencore, Cardinal Mining/REG, Epiroc, Toromont CAT, Industrial Fabrication, and Day Group. Their banners were hung in the Heavy Equipment lab, displaying their companies' logos, to thank them for their continued support.
“I think this is a tremendous opportunity for us to say thank you to some valued partners that we've had for a number of years. With their contributions, our students are able to have a first-class lab experience," said Shawn Poland, associate vice-president of strategic enrollment and college advancement at Cambrian College.
"They get to work on existing, new, and emerging technologies to ensure that they are job-ready when they are at that point in their lives to move into the workforce."
Program coordinator Richard Smith said the hands-on aspect of the program is key. Without the support and donations from local companies, the students wouldn't have the same learning experience.
“Being in the program has been a real eye-opener and has given me a feel for what's real-world in the industry,” said Stephanie Hogan, a student currently enrolled in the Truck and Coach Technician program after recently graduating from Heavy Equipment.
“The program and staff are great. It's 50 per cent hands-on and 50 per cent theory. Especially being a woman in the trades, there are a lot of opportunities for us right now.”
Opportunities in the trades will increase in the near future. In the next two to three years alone, nickel miner Vale plans to hire hundreds of workers to support new projects and replace an aging workforce in Sudbury said Danica Pagnutti, senior advisor of corporate and Indigenous affairs at Vale.
The company has donated a lot of equipment, including a big scoop that has been really helpful for the students, over the years.
“Developing partnerships with local colleges and universities is really important to the future of our workforce,” she continued. “It's a great time to pursue a career in the trades, and our local programs are very well positioned to do that.”
In the future, Cambrian is hoping to expand to be able to accommodate the students interested in the Heavy Equipment program. Right now, there is so much demand, that many students are waiting for a spot in the classroom.