Skip to Content
View site list

Profile

Pre-Bid Projects

Pre-Bid Projects

Click here to see Canada’s most comprehensive listing of projects in conceptual and planning stages

Labour

Conestoga Skilled Trades Campus will be among the largest trade schools in Canada

Don Procter
Conestoga Skilled Trades Campus will be among the largest trade schools in Canada
PHOTO SUPPLIED BY CONESTOGA COLLEGE - A building that was previously owned by BlackBerry in Cambridge, Ont. is being transformed into a 335,000 square foot skilled trades campus. With more than 150,000 square feet of trades shops and labs, the Conestoga Skilled Trades Campus will be among the largest trade schools in Canada.

A building once owned by BlackBerry in Cambridge, Ont. is undergoing a retrofit appropriate for the times – a 335,000 square foot skilled trades campus of Conestoga College.

With more than 150,000 square feet of trades shops and labs, the Conestoga Skilled Trades Campus will be among the largest trade schools in Canada.

As skilled shortages deepen, it couldn’t happen at a better time.

“We are trying to serve the needs of industry,” says Suzanne Moyer, dean of trades and apprenticeships at Conestoga College, adding the aim is to increase training capacity at the college by about 40 per cent.

The school will open its doors to eight trades in two phases. The first phase this September includes classes and shops for plumbing, electrical, carpentry apprenticeship and machining trades.

HVAC, millwright and electrical/mechanical automation trades will follow in September 2023.

Currently the largest apprenticeship training centre in Ontario, Conestoga plans to ramp up training numbers over the next two years to about 1,200 students in full-time programming and 4,000 apprentices, Moyer says.

“We are growing and we always want to be a college that offers something for everyone…pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, post-secondary diplomas and degrees.”

Anything but a drab and institutional design, she notes the facility will be bright and airy, with large windows and wide halls leading to shops, labs and event spaces.

The interior will be “a living lab,” with sections of the walls and ceilings left open, exposing the structure and utility runs for educational purposes to students, says Moyer.

The building’s “wow factor” will give visitors ranging from high school classes to industry employers a new perspective of what a trade school should look like, explains Tony Thoma, executive dean of engineering, technology and trades at Conestoga College.

“We don’t want trades to be thought of as second class.”

The college will continue to offer introductory or level one apprenticeship training at satellite campuses in Brantford, Ingersoll, Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo and Guelph but over the long-term efforts will be made to consolidate training at the new campus on Reuter Drive in Cambridge.

“We decided to amalgamate and have a proper home for the trades,” says Thoma.

The new trades hub will put emphasis on drawing students from underrepresented groups, including women, Indigenous people, new immigrants and even foreign-trained professionals, he says.

The campus is an upgrade of the college’s existing building. The retrofit includes 85,000 new square feet in a second floor to the 250,0000 square foot one-storey existing building.

The college bought the building in 2019 and then experienced fits and starts through the pandemic, followed by increasing supply chain woes and labour disruptions during a strike by unionized carpenters and drywall trades, says Thoma.

He says the construction team is working seven days a week to meet the September opening deadline.

The general contractor is Collaborative Structures Limited. 

The project didn’t come cheap. It will cost more than $110 million in total which includes the price of the 42-acre property, construction and shop equipment costs.  

“We have many industrial partners jumping on the (funding) bandwagon because they understand that if there is a shortage of workers they will be competing for the same workers.”

Over the next 20 years, the college proposes to increase space by as much as 500,000 square feet in four additions at the Reuter Drive property, creating “a very large” dedicated trades campus, says Thoma.
“We have a leadership at the college that looks decades forward. Some of the investments we are making today won’t be fruitful for some years but it is the right thing to do now.”

Recent Comments

Your comment will appear after review by the site.

You might also like