St. Clair to get $1.2M upgrade

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell

Grant part of $36 million in college funding for skilled trades in Ontario

New machinery, an expansion of the pre- apprenticeship program and an upgrade of facilities and equipment for the plumbing and electrical programs are in the works after St. Clair College landed nearly $1.2 million in provincial grants Wednesday.

“These grants allows us to expand our programs,” said Robert Chittim, chair of the school of skilled trades.

“We can train more people who are desperately needed by local industry. It also allows us to replace some old equipment with machinery that better reflects what industry is using now.”

The grants were part of an announcement of $ 36 million in funding for 47 capital projects and 84 training programs aimed at expanding the skilled trades and improving facilities and training across Ontario.

“Ontario’s apprenticeship training system, supported by employers, colleges and unions, is a crucial part of our plan to build the highly-skilled workforce we need to compete,” said Reza Moridi, training, colleges and universities minister.

“I’m proud we are supporting so many projects that will bring new equipment and high-demand training programs to the local markets that need it.” The college received a capital projects grant of $550,000 and a grant of $640,000 to expand its pre-apprenticeship program.

Chittim said $460,000 of the capital grant is for buying new machinery for the Ford Centre for Excellence in Manufacturing. The other $90,000 will be used for the electrical and plumbing programs.

“We’ll be consulting with local industries to get some pointers on what they’d suggest we purchase,” Chittim said. “We want to buy equipment that supports what the industry is using.”

Chittim said the focus will be on equipment such as the five-axis machines and other specialized, high-speed machinery common in local plants.

The plumbing program will get an upgrade of facilities while the electrical program will be shifted to the construction building. That will allow for the expansion of the robotics and robotics welding programs.

The college plans to use the preapprenticeship grant to double the size of the program to 50 students.

The pre-apprenticeship program takes candidates who aren’t necessarily versed in general machining and rapidly brings them up to speed for placement in local shops.
Students get 240 hours of general machinist training and another 70 hours of CNC training in about 30 weeks. They then do another 420 hours in a workplace setting.

“Last year, all 25 students were hired before they even did their work placement,” Chittim said. “We’re pretty happy with 100 per cent placement. Local industry has been very supportive.”

Chittim said the college is currently doing interviews for the program’s May cohort. A second group will start in August.

However, those interested can still apply for the spring program.

“We’re trying to address a youth unemployment rate over 20 per cent in this area,” Chittim said. “This program gives you a way to enter the job market where industry really needs you.”

One in five new jobs created in Ontario in the next decade is expected to be in the skilled trades. Chittim said people are starting to recognize those opportunities.

“In 2009, after the economic crash, we had 40 in our metal-cutting trades ( general machinist, mould maker, tool and die),” Chittim said.

“We’ll have 475 for the 2016-17 school year.

“Companies have diversified into areas other than automotive. A number of them are spending millions on new machinery.

“The demand is there to meet industry’s needs.”