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Cambrian College takes to the road

Trades training will be more accessible than ever with Cambrian College’s new mobile trades training trailer.

The classroom-on-wheels concept has cleared a path for remote and Aboriginal Northern Ontario communities to receive training in the welding, electrical, millwright, heavy equipment, truck and coach, machining and gas fitting skilled trades, to name a few.

“We do a lot of industrial corporate training,” said Louise Turcotte, the college’s associate dean, School of Skills Training/SkyTech. Sudbury-based companies have benefited by sending employees to the college for certified training courses, but for industries or communities in remote locations, training can be logistically difficult, time consuming and expensive.

“It is a lot easier to bring the training to them,” Turcotte said. “There is less downtime for their employees, it is closer to home for the learners and the success rate will probably be better. It also gives us an opportunity to expand where we deliver the training.”

A $2-million donation from Vale Inco was further incentive to proceed with the trailer. An application was submitted to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation to help cover the cost of equipment, pushing the total investment to almost $3 million.

The idea stemmed from dialogue held with industry partners through the SkyTech Board, the college’s industry training provider. We are responding to a need when it is not convenient to bring employees here, Turcotte said. It also addresses accessibility to hands-on training in remote areas, particularly for First Nation communities.

“We see this trailer as a means of generating interest in the trades in communities where access to educational institutions is not readily available,” said Vale Inco public affairs manager Steve Ball in an email response. “As baby boomers continue to retire, there will be a need to tap into potential labour markets that have not traditionally been considered before. This trailer will also be used to meet the demands of in-situ skills enhancement in these communities instead of people having to travel to the cities to receive it.”

First of its kind

The trailer was built by a Mississauga, Ontario-based company called Innovative Trailer Design and is the first of its kind to be used in Ontario. The 53-foot trailer can be transported by air, rail or transport truck. Weighing only 35,000 kilograms, the unit has retractable sides and a hinged, collapsible floor that opens out and deploys in 70 seconds into a 1,000-square foot classroom approximately 19 feet wide, said Robert Huzij, the college’s Heavy Equipment Technician and apprenticeship programs co-ordinator, and project manager for the initiative.

Students work in a high-tech classroom with a programmable logic controller automating all aspects of the trailer’s operations including heating, lighting, projector, and drop-down screen for PowerPoint instruction. It also comes equipped with wireless Internet and satellite, overhead crane capacity of 1,000 pounds and six portable workbenches/down-draft tables for welding on each side, accommodating up to 12 students. The roof is equipped with a heating mechanism to prevent ice build-up and solar panels that will recharge generator batteries.

Two supply trailers accompany the unit. All of the equipment has been adjusted and organized so the mobile classroom can be ready to roll in approximately 70 minutes. A hydraulically controlled entrance platform and a protective, sheltered skirt link the main classroom to the supply trailers, increasing ease of access.

“What is nice is you go to a location where there is no training lab, and in just about an hour, you have a training facility,” Turcotte said.

The college chose to insulate and install a furnace in one of the supply trailers to provide extra lab space if necessary.

The trailer’s first stop will be in Kirkland Lake on March 11 for a six-week Level 1 Heavy Duty Equipment Technician course administered in partnership with Northern College.

Turcotte said they’d like to see the trailer used to its maximum potential teaching secondary courses in the evening, outside of its primary training purpose.

Another possibility under consideration for the summer months is to teach welding on Manitoulin Island as part of the Ontario Youth Apprentice Program.

Marketing efforts are also underway to keep the trailer “on the road,” promoting the potential opportunities available to individuals and industries in remote communities.

www.cambriancollege.ca
www.inco.ca 

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