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Community colleges can help bridge future construction labour shortages, panel says

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by Vince Versace

Community colleges can help bridge future staffing gaps as economic stimulus work rolls out across the nation, said a panel of experts at this year’s Canadian Construction Association conference.
Community colleges can help bridge future construction labour shortages, panel says

Canadian Construction Association Annual Conference

Scottsdale, Ariz.

Community colleges can help bridge future staffing gaps as economic stimulus work rolls out across the nation, said a panel of experts at this year’s Canadian Construction Association conference.

The panel discussion, Your Community College: The HR Solution, explored how colleges are developing the future construction industry leaders and skilled workers.

Examples of successful partnerships between the industry and colleges were showcased.

“Considering our colleges will be called upon much more in the future, we wanted to take a look at how they are making out right now,” said CCA president Michael Atkinson.

David Wood, chair of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia (CANS), Jeff Zabudsky, president of Red River College in Winnipeg, Robert McCulloch, president and chief executive officer, Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology (SIAST) and Anna Sado, president of George Brown College, all provided examples of partnerships and programs that accomplished both industry and education-system goals.

Atkinson said that providing these tangible examples to CCA members shows the benefit of partnering with colleges and looking for new ways to do so.

The CCA partnered with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges last year to lobby for increased federal funding to improve equipment and training capacity at Canada’s colleges.

In the 2009 federal budget, Ottawa allocated 30 per cent of its post-secondary stimulus funding to colleges and 70 per cent to universities.

“It may have not been the split we were looking for, but colleges were acknowledged and that is an entry point,” added Atkinson.

Among the highlights in Wood’s presentation was information about CANS 150th Anniversary Scholarship Program.

In just more than a year, a Building Futures fundraising campaign, powered by a partnership between CANS and the Nova Scotia Community College Foundation, raised more than $1.1 million for scholarships and bursaries.

CANS have committed to raise $2.5 million over five years.

Zabudsky covered how improving student accessibility to education can help create more skilled graduates for the construction industry.

Initiatives such as mobile training into isolated areas, creating construction career scholarships and the development of a new Red River College Degree in Construction Management were other topics Zabudsky discussed.

The main theme of McCulloch’s talk was the role SIAST plays in meeting supply and demand, that is, the supply for the Saskatchewan labour market and the demand for job-ready graduates.

McCulloch is a strong supporter of student-focused programming and partnering with business, community organizations and other educational institutions.

Four case studies on how colleges and the construction industry came together at George Brown were the focus of Sado’s presentation.

Examples of these studies included how colleges and construction can partner to design and deliver degree-level credentials and how to work with a college to meet specific training and learning needs for your organization.

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