After years of casting its eyes towards the Nickel City, the New Liskeard-based 5th Wheel Training Institute will soon officially roll into Sudbury thanks in no small part to a recent partnership with Collège Boréal.
"It's a great northern location, and we've always had a strong desire to plant our feet there, but the cost of setting up a location was always tough to justify." says Ed Popkie, president and executive director of 5th Wheel.
"With a college partner, there's less risk, and we're able to work on the things we know we're good at, which is developing course material. They have the facilities, we have the programs."
Having teamed up on a course-by-course basis since 2000, the two signed an exclusive agreement to jointly deliver continuing education programs in transportation and heavy equipment in April 2008.
This partnership has helped deliver programs throughout the 40 locations in which Boréal operates across the province, helping 5th Wheel to expand its reach into places like Toronto without having to invest in new property and offices.
Further discussions between the two institutions have recently led to the creation of a dedicated space for the partnership programs in Boréal's Sudbury facilities.
The move has led to adoption of its own classroom, and access to an existing, dedicated salesperson. It has also led to the hiring of a full-time instructor, who will begin in the coming weeks, while the addition of more staff will depend on the success of the local programs.
Heavy equipment such as backhoes and graters will also be permanently on hand at the site.
This location will be able to handle a continuous intake of students, who will be able to study anywhere from two weeks to 11 weeks in what Popkie acknowledges is often a second career.
The input from prospective students throughout the Sudbury region has been so extensive that officials are considering developing accommodations for those who might not be able to commit to a daily commute for their program.
He adds that although there has long been demand in and around the Sudbury area, the challenges seen by the local mining houses could generate more interest in new careers in transportation or construction.
Interest has also poured in from industry. Despite the downturn, mining and fabrication firms have expressed the need for workers with entry-level skills in service and repair. Requests have been such that 5th Wheel recently created the Truck, Trailer and Equipment Servicer program, which will be available in Sudbury by the end of the year.
The seven-week program will provide entry-level abilities to students who may be able to perform some repair and maintenance, or act as a mechanic's assistant. The true value of the program, Popkie says, is the ability to generate potential apprentices who may be able to develop even greater skills as they continue forward in their new career.
Popkie holds this partnership up as an example of a successful marriage between public and private institutions.
Daniel Giroux, vice-president of Les Entreprises Boréal, agrees, adding that the arrangement also provides hope for workers in challenged industries who might wish to stay and study in the North.
In fact, internal studies have shown that 50 per cent of the potential educational market finds travel a sometimes insurmountable barrier to pursuing their future.
To this end, the partnership is also working to deliver some educational opportunities in the Cochrane area as of March 2009.
Transportation and heavy equipment training on backhoes, bulldozers and excavators will be available on site, and uUp to 15 people have already signed up for the course. More are expected to enrol in the coming weeks, as the holiday season has a tendency of slowing interest.
"Christmas is a barrier for change, but in the new year, people are wide open to new opportunities," says Popkie.