Heavy equipment is slated to be brought in this fall to begin excavating the foundation for a $9.5-million addition to a skilled trades training centre at the north campus of the Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Toronto.
The Centre for Skilled Trades and Technology at 110 Carrier Dr., built in a former furniture manufacturing plant, is being expanded by 16,620 square feet to accommodate more hands-on training for students seeking careers in trades such as plumbing, carpentry, electrical, millwright and welding.
The addition will enable the college to expand its training portfolio and help address the increasing demand for apprentices and tradespeople. An additional 500 students a year will be trained at the centre for opportunities as pre-apprentices and apprentices in myriad construction and other types of trades.
Michael Auchincloss, associate dean in the faculty of applied sciences and technology at Humber, says the need for tradespeople is on the rise and the college is expanding its programs to keep pace with demand.
“A lot of it revolves around the trades and making sure we have enough tradespeople within the province of Ontario,” he says. “There is a trades shortage in particular areas of the province and with a generation of tradespeople getting ready to retire, I think the province is focused on helping fill the gap on those.”
The addition will have multi-purpose labs and classrooms, allowing for better delivery of hands-on and theoretical learning. Barriers to accessibility will be removed and there will be improved access to in-class training. Architects are in the process of finalizing designs for the structure. The project will take three years.
The college purchased the furniture manufacturing plant two years ago and renovated it for the present training centre. The new structure is being built in the parking lot of the manufacturing plant.
Humber will receive more than $1 million in funding annually for three years from Ontario’s Apprenticeship Capital Grant to support the project. The college will be contributing about $2.16 million per year.
Labour, Training and Skills Development Minister Monte McNaughton said “we all benefit from more training opportunities that enable hardworking people to learn the skills they need to support their families and contribute to their communities. Our government is on a mission to spread opportunity more fairly and widely by giving people a hand up and helping them start well-paying and meaningful careers in the trades.”
With more room, the college will be able to add more trades to its portfolio in the construction, industrial and service sectors, and offer students more choices when it comes to learning style. The expanded training centre will feature simulated worksites for hands-on learning and alternative methods of course delivery, such as online learning and the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
There’s been a migration to online learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the college is adapting to the situation by also offering hybridized courses. Students taking courses in the skilled trades in northern communities, for example, may be able to take the theoretical part of their training online and then go for a period of time to a school with accredited training delivery agent status for practical training.
Philip Stubbs, project manager in the faculty of applied sciences and technology at Humber, says VR and AR will be a big part of the learning experience for youth entering the trades going forward, as a number of colleges are embracing the technologies. Humber is working with a couple of outside agencies.
“The software is mature enough now that we can build experiences that will expose students to not only seeing but experiencing,” he says.
AR enables a student to wear a headset and practice their motor skills on replacing a part on a jet engine, for example.
Stubbs says AR and VR are not intended to replace hands-on training, but they provide an addition to the training.
“This is a possible way of the future and primarily to address an ever-increasing need within the province of Ontario to get more and more people trained up.”
Farzad Rayegani, senior dean at the faculty of applied sciences and technology at Humber, says the college is a leader in creating learning labs that enable students to collaborate and obtain hands-on experience.
Lynn VanLieshout, manager of community projects, community outreach and workforce development at Humber, says the college was feeling the squeeze but the expansion will get more students into the trades. The college is trying to get more women in particular because they are under-represented.
“The hope for these programs is to start pulling more women in and enhancing their enrolment.”