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Monday January 25, 2010

The power of partnerships

cheryljensen-head.jpgAt Mohawk College, we’re proud to be part of an award-winning solution that makes good help easier to find for a major provincial employer.

More than 30 per cent of Hydro One’s highly skilled and experienced workforce is set to retire within the next few years.  It’s an all too familiar challenge across all sectors of our economy as growing numbers of workers retire and fewer young people enter the workforce. The Conference Board of Canada estimates Ontario alone could face a shortage of more than 360,000 skilled employees by 2025, and up to 560,000 unfilled positions by 2030.

To replace retiring workers, Hydro One is counting on college graduates to get the job done. In the Fall of 2007, Hydro One initiated a strategic partnership with Mohawk, Algonquin, Georgian and Northern Colleges to train and recruit students for engineering technician, technologist and skilled trades positions in the electricity sector. The partnership marks the first time in Ontario that four colleges have joined forces to meet the workforce training and development needs of a provincial employer.

Hydro One is investing $3 million in annual scholarships, new equipment and technology for the classroom and curriculum development in our colleges’ Engineering Technology programs. It also provides cooperative work terms and summer jobs so students gain real-world and hands-on experience. Students who graduate at the head of their class are invited to the front of the hiring line at Hydro One.

The Hydro One – College Consortium delivers real benefits to students, to Hydro One and our four colleges. Students get an education that is custom-designed and gives them a definite competitive advantage in the job market. Hydro One gets job-ready graduates who hit the ground running. And our colleges get full enrolment and waiting lists for the Hydro One programs in our Schools and Faculties of Engineering Technology.

In February 2009, the consortium won the Corporate Partnership Award from Colleges Ontario. The program can serve as a blueprint for other employers looking to replace retiring workers, close their skills gap and stay competitive on the world stage.

The consortium also previews the future of industry and education collaboration. At Mohawk, the success of our students rests in large measure on the strength of our partnerships. We have more than 1,000 business and industry, education, community and government partners. We have partners throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, across the province, from coast to coast and beyond Canada’s borders.

It’s the power of partnerships that helps Mohawk transform students into highly skilled and future-ready graduates. Our industry and community partners provide hands-on learning opportunities and extend the classroom into the workplace. Our partners hire our graduates for great jobs and rewarding careers. And our partners help keep Mohawk responsive and adaptive to rapidly evolving needs and emerging trends. Mohawk quickly tacks to changing winds because of our partners.

New winds were blowing in November 2005 when more than 150 business, government, community and education leaders took part in a Think Tank of Technology Education. Those leaders identified a pressing need for a new type of technology employee, who had both excellent technical capabilities and outstanding management and supervisory skills. In direct response to industry need, Mohawk and McMaster launched Canada’s first Bachelor of Technology Program. The program provides an accelerated path to both a university degree and college diploma in technology for working technologists, internationally educated professionals and graduating high school students. Like the Hydro One consortium, the Bachelor of Technology Program is an award winner. In 2006, we received the Innovative Manufacturing Technology Program Award: University Level from the Yves Landry Foundation.

The success of our Bachelor of Technology program reflects an educational partnership that is unique in Ontario. In place of competition, Mohawk and McMaster have opted for collaboration to the benefit of our students and to the credit of our institutions. Mohawk and McMaster were the first in Canada to bring college and university health science education and research together under one roof. Today, the Mohawk-McMaster Institute for Applied Health Sciences is home to collaborative programs in Nursing and Medical Radiation Sciences that have achieved the highest possible levels of accreditation. This Fall, a team of recent graduates from our Medical Radiation Sciences won a North American research award, considered within the profession to be the pinnacle of career achievement. The team won the award for a research project they completed as undergraduate students using state-of-the-art equipment donated by Philips Medical Systems, a long-standing corporate partner.

At Mohawk, we aim to be the prime job-creating engine in the communities we serve. Our job is to build the talent dividend and supply the human capital, the most valuable resource in our knowledge economy. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs who will launch, lead and grow companies. Across all sectors of our economy, they’ll be creating new jobs, new wealth and new prosperity. And our college partners play a key role in making that happen.

The economic, environmental and social challenges facing us at home and around the world are simply too great for any one sector of our economy to solve alone. We will always do better by working together, and even greater industry-education collaboration will turn those challenges into opportunities. Our partnerships with Hydro One and McMaster showcase what’s possible. And at Mohawk, we’re ready, willing and able to share what we’ve learned to close the skills gap and build an even stronger and more prosperous economy driven by highly skilled, future-ready college graduates.
 

Cheryl Jensen is a member of the
Manufacturing AUTOMATION editorial advisory board and vice-president Academic with Mohawk College.