During a visit to the Guelph campus of Conestoga College today, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Chris Bentley strongly voiced his and the Ontario government’s support for a college-based innovative approach to trades education known as co-op/apprenticeship/diploma.
He spoke to a gathering of College and industry representatives, as well as students and faculty at the industrial maintenance mechanic/millwright shop at Conestoga’s Guelph campus, then toured the shop to view students at work.
At Guelph, Conestoga has a mechanical technician co-op/apprenticeship/diploma program in the industrial mechanic millwright field. At the Doon campus in Kitchener, Conestoga has a similar program in the fields of tool and die maker/tool maker and general machinist. Conestoga hopes to launch a co-op/apprenticeship/diploma program in the electrician field at Doon this coming fall.
“We are on the side of students who want to pursue a career in the skilled trades,” Minister Bentley said, drawing attention not only to the importance of high-level trades skills in our economy, but also indicating how professionally and financially rewarding such trades can be, especially in light of impending shortages of personnel in these trades. “By providing more opportunities for students to become apprentices while obtaining a college education, we are helping more Ontarians participate more fully in the economy,” he added.
He also announced a government commitment to provide a total of $11.5 million over the next four years to be applied towards 28 co-op/apprenticeship/diploma projects in colleges throughout Ontario, including the programs at Conestoga. The expectation is that this investment will create more than 900 additional opportunities for people to train in the skilled trades while obtaining a college diploma through this initiative. Since its inception in 2004, the co-op/apprenticeship/diploma program structure has already enrolled 1,600 students across the province.
Conestoga President John Tibbits observed, “New approaches and opportunities are required to recognize the value and importance of high-quality trades education. We are proud to help pioneer such forward-looking initiatives and applaud the efforts and support of the Ontario government.”
The unique nature of this program structure allows participants to earn
both a college technician diploma and a college apprenticeship certificate,
as well as acquire more than 50 weeks of paid, co-op work experience in
industry. A sponsoring consortium grants apprenticeship status to students
once they are enrolled in program studies, thus relieving students of
the burden of having to obtain an employer in advance of beginning their
apprenticeship education. Students who complete these innovative programs
have thus completed all their required in-college apprenticeship training
and are well on their way to earning journeyperson standing in their respective