As employers across the country continue to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs, many manufacturers are facing an ironic dilemma. As they eliminate positions — mainly repetitive, assembly type jobs — they still have unfilled job openings for high-skilled workers. According to a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, the Manufacturing Institute and Oracle, “almost one-third of responding companies report some level of shortages today.” These shortages of high-skilled workers are particularly acute within “the most profitable companies, aerospace and defense and life science sectors,” and among “skilled production workers, scientists and engineers.” “This is certainly an employer’s market, but not as much with manufacturers,” says Mark Tomlinson, executive director and general manager of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. “Manufacturers are looking for employees who are the opposite of the stereotypical factory worker doing repetitive, assembly line work. They are in need of 21st-century workers with specialized technical training such as machinists, operators and technicians,” he adds. The survey also shows that many manufacturers are “not acting” on finding these types of workers or are depending on largely ineffective “traditional approaches to managing and developing their employees,” like current performance, rather than on the latest “talent management trends” such as “Lean and industry-recognized skills credentials.” Respondents to this survey also reported dissatisfaction with the skills of their current employees. Nearly half indicated many workers have inadequate basic employability skills, such as attendance, timeliness and work ethic, while 46 percent reported inadequate problem-solving skills, and 36 percent indicated insufficient reading, writing, and communication skills. Tomlinson believes these trends bring to light the strong possibility that many manufacturers may be unsure of where to recruit talented workers and contends that “associations can be a one-stop resource to find or even train new, high-skilled workers.”
Keeping tight control over steel production at ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s industrial slab casters requires precise and resilient control. Established in 1912 (but currently a standalone subsidiary of ArcelorMittal), the Hamilton, Ont.-based steel-producing mainstay has maintained its longevity by constantly finding new, innovative ways to boost efficiency. “Our product is steel,” is the first half of the company’s slogan, followed by, “Our strength is people,” which is reflected by its urge to use local knowledge to find ways to keep making what it has always made, but better. Since 1991, the steelmaker has harnessed the strength of the students and faculty at McMaster University (also in Hamilton), collaborating on several innovative process control applications, and for the past 16 years has been a member of the awarding-winning McMaster Advanced Control Consortium (MACC). For more than two decades, this consortium has been working with industry to advance process automation and control in a variety of industries, spanning chemical, petroleum, pharmaceutical, steel, pulp and paper, and food. Established in 1988 to promote industrial-academic research, its goal is to educate engineers and scientists through formal degree programs (Masters and Ph.D) and training programs, such as short courses and workshops; develop and demonstrate cutting-edge, advanced technologies in process control; and promote two-way communication between industrial and academic partners, leading to technology transfer. The research is currently directed by six faculty members (with a combined total of 48 years of industrial and 86 years of academic experience), complimented by 15 to 20 graduate students, a research engineer, post-doctoral fellows at various points in time, and three to five undergraduate research students. Current MACC director Christopher Swartz, a professor of chemical engineering, was among several consortium participants who accompanied Manufacturing AUTOMATION on a tour of Dofasco’s continuous casting facility. This is where the MACC and the steelmaker have implemented an automation system using multivariate statistical (MVS) technologies, which monitor the process under start-up, steady-state and transitional operating conditions and alert operators to deviation outside of typical conditions. Michael Dudzic, general manager of the process automation group at ArcelorMittal Dofasco and a pre-consortium McMaster graduate, says the MACC has helped the steelmaker improve quality and efficiency by managing its large volumes of process and product data. From this data, he says, “useful information and better process knowledge can be gained and shared in a timely fashion. The key challenge becomes how to readily and simply be able to exploit all the useful information content from a large amount of process and product data in a timely fashion. “The problem in achieving the above … is that often a significant number of the process variables are highly correlated to each other. Compounding the problem is the fact that a typical data set includes a large number of noisy and possibly missing measurements. Under these circumstances, the use of traditional analysis and modeling technologies can be both time-consuming and produce results that do not capture all the useful information contained in the data.” ArcelorMittal Dofasco has implemented many projects using MVS technologies, saving millions through detection of errors in a production process as soon as they occur or by providing the capacity to monitor and predict a process to ensure a desired outcome. It has innovated several highly marketable steel-making process control technologies, which has gained the company the reputation of being a world-class innovator in automated process control technology. Swartz agrees that the introduction of these technologies can be directly attributed to their membership in MACC. The MACC began with five member companies, and membership has grown to an average of 15 per year and has included Air Products and Chemicals, Alcoa, Algoma Steel, DuPont, ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil, Frito-Lay, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Petro-Canada, Praxair, Shell Global Solutions and Suncor … to name only a few. And even through several economic downturns, the MACC has continued to thrive. How the MACC works Most importantly, the MACC does not merely deliver theoretical solutions and train graduates for employment by industrial members; the member companies are directly involved in the research through activities, such as problem formulation, mentoring students and field-testing concepts. The research is conducted through a combination of graduate research, post-doctoral research, undergraduate research projects (independent study for credit, as well as summer employment projects) and contract research. David Gerardi, a second-year chemical engineering Master’s student, who has Swartz as a supervisor, is currently working on streamlining raw material purchasing at Dofasco’s primary steelmaking operations to determine the quantities of each material (coal, scrap metal and iron ore pellets) that should be purchased for any given time period, taking into account purchasing and production costs. As for his experience, he has nothing by great things to say. “I enjoy the family feel of the program,” he says. “There is a strong emphasis placed on presentations and interaction among students so that everyone is aware of each other’s research work.” When Gerardi initially discovered he wanted to pursue graduate studies in process systems, he asked previous employers — who all held graduate degrees from universities other than McMaster — for advice. “They unanimously agreed that McMaster would be the best choice,” he says. “To me, this spoke of McMaster’s reputation within industry for the quality of their students and the institution.” Reiterating this sentiment is John MacGregor, co-founder of the consortium and Distinguished University Professor at McMaster: students’ feedback, he says is generally enthusiastic. “They realize they are going to get the type of education they can’t get in other areas.” While the research is typically conducted at McMaster, plant visits to the companies are common, and lengthier internships, where appropriate, have also been carried out. The member company is typically involved throughout the project evolution: from problem definition to providing project support and plant validation, to transfer of research results into their processes. All MACC company members pay an annual fee, which over the life of the consortium has generated more than $4 million. This funding, complemented with NSERC and other federal and provincial government programs, has permitted the consortium to run a world-class operation with state-of-the art computing and software resources, host annual conferences and support cutting-edge research. In addition to the funding, the industry partner provides plant personnel time; provision of plant data, including operating data, process information and operating policies; and industrial experience. However, MacGregor emphasizes that the MACC wants a partner, not just the money. “They have to participate.” To help facilitate participation and idea transfer, the MACC hosts a one-day annual meeting, which typically includes an overview of research developments by the MACC faculty, a graduate student poster session, technical presentations by industrial members and a business meeting. A subsequent two-day workshop involves presentations on a topic selected at the previous year’s business meeting, and includes speakers from both academia and industry. MacGregor says there is lots of interaction and that ideas are often sparked through discussions related to presentations. “These people will recognize where the technology you’re developing is important, and they get enthused about it.” Current student Gerardi also lauds the conference: “Not only is it a great networking opportunity, but it shows that the program understands the importance of conducting practical research of high quality.” Additionally, the diversity of research areas and industrial sectors promotes lateral thinking, cross-fertilization of concepts and the generation of new ideas. “As an example,” Swartz says, “advanced control methods that were initially developed for a lumber company, Tembec, have also been applied to the food industry in Frito-Lay’s plants, with both companies achieving significant benefits through cost savings and/or improving product quality.” He adds that collaboration between Tembec and Dofasco was also sparked through their interaction with MACC. As the academic partner, MACC faculty conduct advanced research in this area and contribute research personnel, technical expertise that builds on theoretical knowledge in relevant technologies. This collaboration has resulted in highly trained, employable graduates producing significant technological advances that have been developed further and implemented at the member companies. To date, MACC-related projects have generated 90 graduate students, 35 of whom completed Ph.D degrees, and 55 with Master’s degrees. The high technical skills that MACC graduate students develop through their course work at McMaster and their industrially relevant research make them sought-after and valuable assets to the Canadian process industries and their technology suppliers. And as a McMaster graduate since 1995, Vit Vaculik, manager of the advanced automation technology team at ArcelorMittal Dofasco, explains that graduates “are highly sought after in industry, and they have gone on to make a great impression in industry.” Dofasco alone, he says, has hired “quite a few McMaster alumni” in its process automation group. Outside opportunities A significant impact of MACC has been the formation of spin-off company ProSensus, incorporated in 2004 and currently residing at nearby McMaster Innovation Park (which opened its doors last year), further advancing the research done at MacGregor’s lab at the university. “At McMaster,” MacGregor says, “my group developed a whole class of multivariate statistical methods for extracting information from large industrial data bases and using them for analyzing/troubleshooting process problems, on-line monitoring of process health and on-line control and optimization of processes and products.” The company provides advanced solutions and software to companies like DuPont, Alcoa, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer to analyze industrial data for improved process control. MacGregor says ProSensus provides consulting services on analyzing process problems, develops and installs on-line imaging solutions for product quality control, develops and installs on-line advanced batch control systems for the control of final product quality, provides technology for the scale-up and optimization of industrial processes, and provides technology for the rapid development of new products based on using companies’ diverse manufacturing, pilot plant and laboratory databases. The spin-off currently employs five full-time engineers, including recent graduate Mark-John Bruwer, and has been self-financed since incorporation. When Bruwer first applied to the MACC program in 2001, he had already been in the industry for five years working on model-predictive control at Pavilion Technologies, but moving forward, he wasn’t interested in doing anything hypothetical. A former colleague encouraged him to pursue graduate studies as a basis for an advanced technical career and recommended MacGregor’s research program. The two factors that stood out to Bruwer were McMaster’s world-recognized work and that the focus was very industrially relevant. “Coming from industry myself,” he says, “the latter factor was an important consideration for me.” So once he began his studies at McMaster in January 2002, “the benefits of the program under MACC were as I had anticipated: a pool of world renowned professors in the process systems engineering field, all engaged in leading edge research with strong industrial relevance.” Now, as chief technology officer of ProSensus, Bruwer gets the best of both worlds by pursuing leading-edge technology developments (akin to a research institute) and the engaging directly with industrial clients. “I was also attracted by the challenge of helping ProSensus transition from a start-up company to an established provider of products and services in its field,” he added. Looking ahead The MACC’s structure and operation are designed to maximize the research productivity to the university and member companies. In October 2009, the consortium was recognized with a Leo Derikx Synergy Award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, which recognizes an established innovative model of long-standing university-industry partnership in pre-competitive research and development that has improved the general well being of an industry. Swartz accepted the award on behalf of consortium members. Winning universities currently receive a $200,000 NSERC research grant. “Much credit must be given to the founders of the consortium who had the foresight to understand the benefits of universities and industry working together in research and development,” he said in response to the award. David Wilkinson, dean of the faculty of engineering at McMaster, says the MACC serves as a model for how industry and academia can work together successfully. “I am proud of the creativity and leadership shown by my colleagues in the faculty who have demonstrated how to build deep, long-lasting industrial partnerships.” “Success stories such as this demonstrate that there are ways to build and maintain a strong and vibrant manufacturing industry in Canada,” says Mo Elbestawi, the university’s vice-president of research and international affairs. Numerous awards to MACC faculty and invitations to present seminars, plenary talks and keynote addresses evidence the high reputation of research at McMaster. In 2002, MacGregor and colleague Thomas Marlin were joint recipients of the Kalev Pugi Award from the Society of Chemical Industry for “outstanding work in bringing together the McMaster Advanced Control Consortium (MACC) as a model research and development project with Canadian and international industry.” MACC continues to thrive after 21 years, and McMaster’s Swartz welcomes any push toward this type of collaboration at schools across Canada. “There has been an increasing trend in recent years toward research collaboration between academia and industry, supported by both national and provincial funding agencies through several programs designed to achieve this goal. This, in my view, has been a major step forward, with significant benefits to both industry and academia.” Member companies have reported savings of millions of dollars per year that he says can be attributed to interactions with MACC. “MACC has had a further impact on the Canadian manufacturing industry through the many highly-skilled graduate students who have joined companies in several industrial sectors, who are making a significant contribution through the development and application of advanced process automation technologies.” Echoing this sentiment, ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s Dudzic says one of the key differentiating capabilities of working with MACC is their knowledge of process industries and the class of problems that we face. “Knowing this,” he says, “they are able to more effectively introduce advanced technologies that they believe are applicable in helping us solve our problems or optimize our operations.” Adds Vaculik: “You couldn’t find a better academic partner than this.”
Growing numbers of Canadians, particularly middle-aged and older Canadians, participated in job-related education or training in 2008 compared with five years earlier, Statistics Canada reported in its latest Access and Support to Education and Training Survey. Family responsibilities, needing to work and conflicts with work schedules were cited as the most common reasons for not pursuing further education or training. In addition, more Canadian families are saving for postsecondary education. In 2008, 36 percent of adults aged 25 to 64 participated in job-related education or training activities, up from 30 percent in 2002. At the same time, 32 percent of adults reported that they wanted to further participate, but did not, an increase from 26 percent in 2002. The reasons reported for not taking further education or training have changed over time. In 2002, financial barriers were more often cited as obstacles to participating in education or training. In 2008, adults were more likely to cite non-financial barriers, such as conflicts with their work schedules or family responsibilities. Participation in job-related education or training was more prevalent among middle-aged Canadians. Between 2002 and 2008, the largest increase in participation occurred among middle-aged people, followed by older Canadians. The increase was less pronounced for younger Canadians. Consequently, for the first time, adults aged 35 to 44 had participation rates similar to younger adults aged 25 to 34. Participation in job-related education or training was highest among the 25 to 34 age group (43 percent), followed closely by the 35 to 44 age group (42 percent). The rate fell to 29 percent for adults aged 45 to 64. Family responsibilities, needing to work and conflicts with work schedules were the most common reasons for not pursuing further education or training. These reasons differed between age groups. The report can be found in the Publications module at Choose Publications by subject, then Education, training and learning.
Foreign-trained workers will be told within one year of applying whether their credentials will allow them to work in their profession in Canada, the federal government announced last week. Attracting and retaining the best international talent is critical to Canada's long-term economic success, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said in announcing the new framework. Beginning Dec. 31, 2010, foreign-trained engineers will be among the groups that fall under the framework. "Ensuring that foreign credentials and qualifications are assessed and recognized in a timely manner will enable newcomers to maximize their talents." – Diane Finley Does regulation preventing engineers from using their professional skills as the Canadian manufacturing industry has undergone a skilled trades shortage serve the public interest? According to Manufacturing AUTOMATION Industry Watch columnist Paul Hogendoorn, a member of the London Region Manufacturing Council and president of OES Technologies, while there are certain risks, the advantages of fast-tracking the application process outweigh them. "Skilled workers from foreign countries help fill needs in our industrial work force," he says. "Our schools, and our society in general, tend to direct our kids away from manufacturing careers, including skilled trades and even the certain engineering professions. But more than this, these foreign workers also bring two other valuable intangibles: their ambition, and their cultural experience and understanding." At a press conference last week, Finley said attracting and retaining the best international talent is critical to address the existing — and future — Canadian skilled labour shortage. "Ensuring that foreign credentials and qualifications are assessed and recognized in a timely manner will enable newcomers to maximize their talents," she added. David Green, a member of the Manufacturing AUTOMATION editorial board and a managing partner at Stratmarc Associates, commented that the current government initiative does not include an special efforts for skilled trades and technologists, who he also considered to be professionals. "This first round does not address the skilled trades and technology worker’s shortage, which I believe may be more acute." – David Green "For manufacturing, having the right engineers for production or operations is key and familiarity with the industry will be important," he said. "The problem is this first round does not address the skilled trades and technology worker’s shortage, which I believe may be more acute than the professional level needs." For any skilled worker — whether medical, dental or engineering professionals — Green said they must be trained and familiar with national and provincial job and industry standards, regulatory issues and best practices along with acceptance of their academic and professional accreditation from their country by the appropriate Canadian body. "This takes time and resources, and add this to the current timing for the first wave of 2012 and it may all be too late or at least there may be more in-country solutions and competition." In an increasing a global community, having skilled and professional workers from other parts of the world can add a distinct advantage when trying to gain new business from those areas. "These 'new Canadians' often bring a fresh and enthusiastic attitude as they truly appreciate the opportunity," Hogendoorn says. "This country was built on an earlier generation of opportunity seekers. A fresh influx of people here to pursue their dream, reminding us all how good we still have it (despite our own pessimism sometimes), cannot be bad for our country at this time." Immigration Minister Jason Kenney joined Finley at the press conference where they announced that the federal government has signed a Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications with all provincial governments. Under the framework, internationally trained professionals in 15 licensed professions will be told within one year whether or not their qualifications match Canadian standards. Specific barriers to qualification recognition vary across both occupations and jurisdictions, and are highly dependent on background and experience of the individual applicant. This Framework represents a joint commitment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to work together to improve the foreign qualification assessment and recognition systems in Canada. This Framework complements and coordinates the efforts of governments and their foreign qualification recognition partners, as well as being a reference point for individual federal, provincial and territorial strategies. To learn more about foreign qualification recognition, call 1-800-O-Canada or visit
Investments under Canada’s Economic Action Plan are helping to build a strong, innovative Canadian economy through the funding of science, technology and research. “Investing in science and technology is crucial to developing highly skilled workers and researchers and improving the long-term competitiveness of Canadian firms,” said Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). “Through our Economic Action Plan, we are investing about $5 billion in science and technology initiatives — one of the largest ever single investments in science and technology in Canada. This funding is creating jobs for today, and creating opportunities for the future.” Funding includes investments in two key areas: post-secondary education and research, including the $2-billion Knowledge Infrastructure Program, which supports deferred maintenance, repairs and construction at Canadian post-secondary institutions; and direct support for science and technology, including approximately $3 billion for measures to modernize federal laboratories and foster research in clean energy and space technology, among others. The Knowledge Infrastructure Program has already seen success in communities across Canada. The program’s full $2 billion in federal funding has been committed, and this funding has leveraged additional funding from the provinces, territories and other sources such as the institutions themselves, resulting in a total investment of $5 billion. More than 71 percent of all projects funded under the program are complete or underway — creating jobs for engineers, architects and those in the construction trades. For example, a project at St. Clair College in Ontario is expected to create 1,500 jobs in the province and another 280 across Canada. A project at Concordia University in Montreal is projected to create and maintain up to 290 jobs by March 31, 2011, and construction at the University of Calgary will require the equivalent of 175 full-time workers by the completion of the project in 2010. Canada’s Economic Action Plan is also supporting innovation at small and medium-sized enterprises across the country, by providing $200 million over two years to the National Research Council Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program. This funding is doubling the program’s contributions budget and will allow companies to hire more than 1,000 new post-secondary graduates in business and science.
Innovative manufacturers will benefit from a $12-million investment in the AIME Initiative, reopening the application process until Jan. 15, 2010.
Innovative small and medium-sized manufacturers will benefit from an initiative to provide southern Ontario workers with advanced technological education and skills training. Minister of State Gary Goodyear announced a $12-million investment in the Yves Landry Foundation's Achieving Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence (AIME) Initiative Monday at the Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. New AIME applications will be accepted until Jan 15, 2010 — for details about eligibility, see below. "Our government is acting quickly to stimulate the economy, create jobs and support the people and industries of southern Ontario," Goodyear said. "This investment will provide the advanced skills training that workers need so that manufacturers can innovate. VIDEO: Watch our announcement coverage: Through the AIME Initiative, the Yves Landry Foundation will fund up to 75 percent of a project's total direct and indirect eligible cost up to a maximum of $50,000. Examples of eligible skill training projects include developing new engineering skills, training in the use of new software, hardware or other tools to support innovation; and retraining to use new technologies, new manufacturing methods, or new processes or procedures that improve competitiveness. These new funds will benefit eligible small- and-medium-sized manufacturers in southern Ontario by accelerating commercialization, attracting and retaining talent, developing growth for new and existing firms, and creating leading-edge jobs. "We are delighted to be working with the Government of Canada on this important partnership project," said Michael Sherrard , Yves Landry Foundation chair. "This is vital funding, which will promote and support innovation within the manufacturing sector, and the adaption of new technologies in southern Ontario. We are grateful to the federal government for its outstanding commitment and vision. In a conversation with Yves Landry Foundation executive director Karyn Brearley after the anouncement, she said she was thrilled with the new infusion of funds. In the previous round of funding, which began accepting applications in October 2008 and closed earlier than anticipated in August 2009, the foundation financed close to 750 manufacturers' training projects, and she says the current dollars are enough to help 250 to 300 more. The projects, she explains, must be based in innovation and go directly to training employees at eligible facilities. She encourages anyone who qualifies to take part and says her team at the foundation is open to helping anyone fine tune their application. Preliminary applications can be submitted electronically in PDF, Word and Excel formats at any time prior to Jan. 1, 2010. The foundation will provide feedback within 10 business days. Full proposals must be received no later than Jan. 15, 2010. This investment comes from the $55-million intake process under the Southern Ontario Development Program (SODP), which is open until Dec. 1. The SODP was established to promote economic development, economic diversification, job creation and sustainable communities in Southern Ontario. It is just one in a series of initiatives introduced in the Government of Canada's Economic Action Plan designed to address the short-term effects of the economic decline on communities across Canada, while preparing our communities for long-term growth. Overall funding for the SODP is $100 million in 2009 – '10. For more information on the SODP and details regarding the intake processes, please visit the FedDev Ontario web site at For more information on Canada's Economic Action Plan, visit Achieving Innovation & Manufacturing Excellence (AIME) The Yves Landry Foundation was established by leaders in Canada's manufacturing and business sectors in 1998, to advance technological education and skills training to resolve the skilled labour and technical professional shortages facing Canadian industry. The Foundation is governed by a board of directors comprised of senior leaders from industry, education and the NGO sectors. Features of the Program: Through the AIME Initiative, the Yves Landry Foundation (YLF) is making available up to $50,000 per company in the form of a grant to foster training that will lead to advancements in innovation within the manufacturing sector in Ontario. Project Eligibility: Specific funding will be provided for two major objectives: Objective One - Training that will support the adaptation of new technology, new processes or procedures or a change within the company to support innovation. If a manufacturing company is adopting an innovative new process or concept in any area of its business, funding can be provided to share in the cost of retraining all employees involved. Objective Two - Training that will support and develop highly skilled personnel in any area that leads to innovation. This can include the development of new engineering skills, training in the use of new software, hardware or other tools necessary to support innovation; retraining to embrace new technologies, new manufacturing methods; or any other business area that will make an Ontario manufacturing company more competitive in the global marketplace. Eligible Applicants: This funding is open to all Ontario manufacturing companies in all segments that meet the following criteria: - Between 15 - 1500 employees. - Continuously in business in Ontario for at least three years. - Must be able to demonstrate a solid financial footing. - Manufacturing facility or facilities located in southern Ontario (please refer to map on website outlining coverage area). - Manufacture a specific product for sale in Ontario or elsewhere. Preliminary applications can be submitted electronically in PDF, Word and Excel formats at any time prior to Jan. 1, 2010. YLF will provide feedback within 10 business days. Full proposals must be received no later than Jan. 15, 2010. For more information, please visit or contact the AIME team at (416) 620-5464.
There is a new face on Main Street in Hamilton, Ont. — and this one represents a sustainable, high-tech future. The five-storey, 125,000-sq.-ft., glass-covered Engineering Technology Building was officially opened in October at McMaster University. The $48-million edifice will house more than 2,000 students, professors, researchers and staff. It features state-of-the art learning and research facilities, sustainability systems, and novel architectural design. “This new building is going to represent the face of McMaster for the 21st century,” said Peter George, president and vice-chancellor of McMaster University. “It is a showcase of the very best McMaster has to offer in terms of the exciting programs it represents and because of the partnerships and collaborations that made it possible.” The building is the new home to the McMaster-Mohawk Bachelor of Technology Partnership, the first-year Engineering program, the McMaster School of Biomedical Engineering, the Walter G. Booth School of Engineering Practice, a new Biointerfaces Institute, and the Centre for Research in Micro- and Nano-Systems. The building has been designed to achieve LEED Gold certification. This is reflective of the faculty’s five-year strategic plan, which focuses on increased research in sustainability and the development of the “global engineer.” The building has also been designed to enhance the teaching and learning process. This is achieved through the inclusion of separate teaching studios, tutorial rooms and study space that encourages collaboration and the open exchange of ideas and information. Classrooms also feature state-of-the-art technology, including digital projection and wireless Internet.
More than 2,000 Ontario college students successfully put their research and innovation skills into practice with about 400 small and medium-sized businesses across the province, thanks to a first-of-its-kind program connecting the two groups.   The unique Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation (CONII) program, created in fall 2006, is now nearing the end of its three-year term. Thanks to a recent $10 million infusion from the Ontario government, however, and as a result of the proven success of the program — which to date has involved 10 top Ontario colleges along the technology corridor between Ottawa and Windsor — the initiative has been extended for another three years.   CONII colleges include Algonquin College in Ottawa, Conestoga College in Kitchener, Fanshawe College in London, Niagara College in Welland, Sheridan College in Oakville, St. Clair College in Windsor, and Centennial College, George Brown College, Humber College and Seneca College in Toronto.   “The success of the CONII has dramatically exceeded our expectations,” said Katharine Janzen, Chair of the CONII Steering Committee and Vice-President, Research and Innovation, at Toronto’s Seneca College. Janzen said that CONII organizers had originally anticipated the participation of little more than 100 students and companies – a small fraction of the actual number of participants.   Now, with an extended mandate, “CONII will be able to provide support to even more small and medium-sized businesses and increased opportunities for a greater number of Ontario students and researchers,” Janzen said. She explained that the uniqueness of the CONII program is that it offers businesses applied versus pure research, innovative technology and solutions of a commercial nature.   “CONII members work to solve problems or meet goals driven by our business partners, an approach referred to as ‘market pull,’” said Janzen, explaining that CONII’s mandate is to develop research projects with businesses that make effective use of faculty expertise, provide students with real-world learning opportunities, and ultimately have a positive economic impact on the province’s small business sector.   During the last three years, CONII has successfully helped small and mid-sized companies across Ontario solve technical problems faster, improve the efficiency of manufacturing processes, and move products and services to market more quickly. Projects have included designing more efficient light sources and alternative energy systems that reduce pack electricity usage, enhancing the use of laser technology in industry, and revolutionizing the three-dimensional and other interactive educational gaming experiences, all while making Ontario companies more productive and profitable in the process.   Spongelab Interactive, a Toronto-based educational game design and production company, for example, benefitted from the CONII program by working with two Centennial College students.  The company engaged students from different college departments – computer science and biology – to help further develop its technology and product offerings.     “The student from computer science was instrumental in helping us build our game engine – custom-designed to produce and run educational games – and the biology student helped us develop the background research and storyline for our upcoming history game,” said Spongelab Interactive co-founder Jeremy Freidberg. “Both of these students were a tremendous asset in helping us to bring our products to market and each exhibited an amazing work ethic and a true passion for the work they did.”   Centennial College student Angela Ferrao, a biotechnology technologist who was involved in the project, explained that the real-world experience she gained working with Spongelab Interactive was invaluable. “CONII has helped me further develop my skills and expertise and has created an opportunity for me to bring my creative skills to fruition,” said Ferrao, explaining that the project – an educational game about the history of genomics and the scientists who contributed to the field – teaches students by having them participate in an innovative scavenger hunt. Her research was key in order to ensure that the game “not only emphasizes the scientist’s discovery, but also sheds light on the human side of the scientist, an aspect which is typically lost when learning about science,” she explained.   Etobicoke-based industrial bakery Give & Go Prepared Foods Corp. is another business that is reaping the benefits of the CONII program. The company turned to Humber College for help when it found itself drawing flour out of small silos so rapidly that they needed to be refilled twice a day. “Calculating the optimal time to reorder the flour became a logistical challenge and affected our production,” says Jerry Dover, Director of Engineering & Plant Services at Give & Go. Humber engaged students from various faculties to find the solution and this multi-disciplinary approach proved key to tackling the problem, which had both technical and production issues.   “Humber’s solution reflected our technical and business needs and gave the students the opportunity to apply their technical and problem-solving skills to the complex realities of a functioning industrial plant,” Dover said. “This represents a true win-win for Give & Go and Humber and is the springboard to more collaboration.”   By tapping into the knowledge and commercialization expertise of college students and faculty, businesses are able to further a research area or address a challenge for which they may not have in-house staff or expertise,” explained Len Crispino, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.   “CONII is a creative and cost-effective resource for companies, enabling them to access the innovative research and development they need to position their businesses for growth,” added Crispino, an entrepreneur who himself successfully worked with CONII member Niagara College to increase the efficiency of his business.   CONII’s areas of focus include alternative energy, environmental technologies and construction, digital media, health and life sciences, hospitality and tourism, information and communication technologies, manufacturing and materials, and viticulture and agri-business. Each of the colleges linked by CONII has established an industry innovation centre to serve as a primary contact for business owners looking for assistance. The centres then put together the strongest team from its network of colleges for each particular company and business issue.   All businesses are welcome and encouraged to contact their local college for help with research, innovation, commercialization and access to project funding support.  The college will assist applicants in sourcing its most appropriate subject matter expert for their particular challenge or act as a conduit to source the required expertise from any of the other CONII colleges.   For more information about CONII and its member colleges, please visit
Reporter Carolyn Yates talks to various experts about WorldSkills, which took place in Calgary from Sept. 1 to 7.
Benoit Maisonneuve, chief expert for the mechatronics competition, talks about the event. Competition footage included.
Bob Tone, chief expert for the mobile robotics competition, talks about the event. Competition footage included.
Festo Canada President Thomas Lichtenberger talks about its involvement in WorldSkills. The event took place from Sept. 1 to 7.
"Innovative, bold, breathtaking and 'wow’ " were some of the words being used to describe the design of SAIT Polytechnic’s new Trades and Technology Complex (TTC) unveiled at the Calgary institution’s main campus, according to SAIT.More than 200 people attended the event, including Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach; Doug Horner, Alberta Minister of Advanced Education and Technology and MLA for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St.Albert; Jim Prentice, Canada’s Minister of the Environment and Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre-North; and Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier."The Trades and Technology Complex will be transformational – dramatically changing the look of SAIT’s main campus, particularly along 16th Avenue," says Irene Lewis, SAIT president and CEO. "The design truly reflects SAIT’s history, accommodates the present and is adaptable to the future of polytechnic education. The Trades and Technology Complex will benefit generations to come."" Completion of the TTC is set for 2012. It will be composed of three buildings providing the campus with more than 700,000 sq.-ft. of additional training spaces primarily in the areas of energy, construction and manufacturing. Design of the buildings emphasizes an innovative, flexible and more integrated approach to trades and technical training – intended to reflect real life workplaces." The complex will – in the language of the post-secondary environment – add another 3,600 "full-load equivalents," or "student spaces," to SAIT. For prospective students, that translates into 8,100 more apprentice and full and part-time learner opportunities each year."" Those numbers represent a 50-per-cent increase in SAIT apprenticeship opportunities and nearly a 30-per-cent increase for enrolment in certificate, diploma and applied degree programs. "This complex, with its contemporary design, will play an important role in addressing the province’s long-term skilled labour needs," said Premier Ed Stelmach. "This facility provides an opportunity for students to learn in a unique and innovative environment that reflects the realities of today’s workplace." Flexibility is also important, says Gibbs.""The needs of industry change."The mix of training provided by SAIT could be far different in 10 or 20 years. These buildings are designed to accommodate that." They take a holistic approach to education.""This is a very significant investment for Calgary made in a critical time of economic turbulence. I am thrilled to see SAIT Polytechnic adding this world-class facility to its already impressive campus," said Mayor Bronconnier.Construction of the Trades and Technology Complex is already well underway. The total planned cost is $445 million. To date, $342 million has been raised or committed, including $300 million from the Government of Alberta and $4 million from the Government of Canada.
Spending on training, learning and development continues to decline slowly in Canadian organizations, according to the results of the Conference Board’s 10th Learning and Development Outlook survey.Canadian organizations in 2008 spent an average of $787 per employee (or 1.5 per cent as a proportion of their payroll) on training, learning and development. In real dollar terms, this level of expenditure represents a 40-per-cent decline over the past decade and a half. Furthermore, employees in 2008 received an average of 20 hours training, down from 26 hours just four years ago – a 30-per-cent decline."Compared to our leading competitor nations, our investment is modest. Furthermore, training, learning and development spending may not be immune to the pressure of the global recession," said senior research associate Alison Campbell. "For the first time since the Conference Board began collecting this data, more organizations are expecting a decrease in their TLD budgets than an increase in the coming year."The report, Learning and Development Outlook 2009: Learning in Tough Times, also provides insights about how organizations use informal learning to augment employee skills. A majority of the 218 respondents believed that more informal learning was occurring in their workplaces than in the past. Respondents estimated that on average 56 per cent of all learning in their organizations occurred informally, a significant increase from previous survey findings. Respondents to the Learning and Development Outlook survey in 2004 said 33 per cent of all learning occurred informally; this number rose to 42 per cent among respondents to the 2006 survey.More than half of responding organizations indicated that they have altered their TLD strategies in response to growing skills shortages. However, two major groups in the labour force – mature workers and new Canadians – are not being widely targeted by employers for training. More programs for these groups could help address skills shortages in the labour
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