St. Clair College creates regional skill trades training centre

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell

[With Video -]

Valiant TMS founder Michael Solcz Sr. believes the training and development centre his company created in 2008 to solve his company’s skilled labour shortage can do the same for all local industry now that St. Clair College is taking over the operation.

It was announced Friday the college has agreed to lease the building and all the equipment at Valiant’s training facility to form the St. Clair College Skilled Trades Regional Training Centre.

“We believe it is now time to expand the program to benefit the greater community and that St. Clair College is well positioned to drive that growth,” Solcz said.

Valiant trained more than 400 people at the centre in the past eight years. Solcz credits the centre with helping the company to continue to expand.

“We’ve graduated a number of people from this centre and two have already started their own businesses,” Solcz said. “That’s really my desire, that more people start up tool shops. It’s the way to attract more investment.”

St. Clair president Patti France said the college won’t change anything about the program other than a desire to expand it.

“What makes college education strong is experiential learning and work-integrated learning.” France said.

“I’m hopeful not only that we continue what we’re doing here, but that we expand work-integrated learning into some of the other skilled trades and engineering programs we have.”

France said an important part of the program is to continue the earn-as-you-learn concept that Valiant started. Students are paid $12 per hour while they train.

To run the 46-week program, St. Clair has hired Mike Ouellette, Valiant’s director of training, as the regional centre’s general manager. Another 11 Valiant employees will also shift onto the college payroll.

“The centre is meant to be self-sustaining,” said Ouellette, who put 110 students through the program last year. “The employees will be paid from revenues we receive from companies for which we are doing work.

“This is going to be a big win for industry and for our youth.”

Ouellette said the college is hoping to have its first intake of students this spring. As those currently on site finish up their training, new students will replace them.

“We haven’t settled on a number of students we could handle yet,” Ouellette said.

France said the college will benefit from getting access for more hands-on training for some of its students that don’t currently have placement programs.

Students in precision metal cutting, mechanical engineering technician, CAD-CAM, millwright and mechanical engineering technologist could soon have those opportunities.

Jonathon Azzopardi, chair of the Canadian Association of Mould Makers, said the centre is another important step in keeping this region ahead of other centres in developing homegrown talent.

“A centre like this is a common area for students, industry and academia to come together,” Azzopardi said.

“That’s how you move forward. If any one of those elements tries to do it on their own, you fail.”