Some alumni believe in supporting their former college or university and certainly that is the case, in a very big way, with Mohawk College graduate and homebuilder Steve Stipsits.
The president of Burlington Ont.-based Branthaven Homes, Stipsits and his family have made a $1 million donation to the college. Details were recently announced at a public presentation at the Stoney Creek campus for skilled trades.
It will be used to develop rapid skills residential construction training courses, such as framing/carpentry, tile layers, masons and painters, through the college’s City School, and will complement monies Mohawk has, or will be, allocating to the program.
City School is an initiative to address issues of poverty, under-education, labour shortages, unemployment and underemployment in the Greater Hamilton Area through community-based and mobile classrooms in neighbourhoods and communities.
According to the college, the mobile classrooms eliminate the costs required to travel to a fixed building and simplifies the process of training for people who might be reluctant to travel outside of their area of familiarity.
“This powerful gift will allow City School to provide training for people and help them secure lasting, meaningful work in construction trades while addressing labour shortages in the field,” said Mohawk College president and CEO Ron McKerlie at the official announcement.
To acknowledge the donation, City School mobile classrooms will include branding that recognizes the support of Branthaven Homes. Also, the formerly named Construction Technology and Trades Centre at the Stoney Creek campus has been rechristened as the Branthaven Construction, Trades, Technology and Research Centre.
In explaining his reasons for making the donation, Stipsits asked the audience to imagine a society in desperate need of people to fill jobs in important but underserved careers such as health and child care and skilled trades. Then he asked them to visualize people in multigenerational poverty right in their own community.
“Yes, I mean people who often must choose between food and rent, who would never dream of achieving a college education, let alone being able to afford a bus pass to get to it.”
Next he asked them to imagine a small group of caring individuals who felt compelled to do something about that situation by bringing free education right into those neighbourhoods.
“That is City School, and what’s not to love?”
No conditions were attached to the donation, said Stipsits in short interview after the presentation.
“They (Mohawk College) is doing an incredible job.”
While commending the province on its housing policies, Stipsits also said, “the housing problem won’t be solved without addressing the skilled trades shortage.”
Stipsits has a long connection to Mohawk. He is an alumnus of the college, graduating from the architectural technology program in 1984 before beginning his career. He is a distinguished fellow of the college and a Mohawk College Alumnus of Distinction. As well, he served as a college governor from 2017 to 2022.
After graduating he joined Branthaven Homes, which his parents Al and Judy Stipsits started in 1971, and then assumed ownership in 1996. Stipsits is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Burlington Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Award (2014) and the BILD Stephen Dupuis Humanitarian of the Year Award (2016).