Since its doors opened to students in 1967, the small community college has grown to become one of the leading polytechnic institutes in Canada with five campuses; Guelph, Waterloo, Doon (Kitchener), Cambridge and Stratford. It is at the Guelph campus where motive power education begins. Three motive power apprenticeship programs are offered at this location; Automotive Service Technician, Heavy Equipment Operator and Truck and Coach Technician. In addition, one year post-secondary programs are available in both the Automotive and Truck and Coach trades. Motive power education is a specialty of the Guelph campus.
The truck and coach shop opened in September of 2006 in a newly constructed six thousand sq. ft. facility devoted entirely to truck and coach programs. Stephen Speers, Chair of Trades & Apprenticeship (Guelph), has been with the college for two years. One of his first big projects was to take the lead in the inception of the unique Truck and Coach Technician programs.
"It was a lot of hard work, but not a hard sell to convince people the program was a good idea," said Speers. "There’s a huge trucking industry presence in the Kitchener/Waterloo and Cambridge areas, and we’ve had a lot of support from local companies. Companies have generously donated trucks, a highway coach and transit coach, and a variety of engines, components, and equipment to get the program off the ground and running full-time."
There is government funding to support the operation of trades and apprenticeship programs, but the capital required for facilities and equipment to launch new programs is difficult to get up front. Colleges are not-for-profit organizations and they rely heavily on industry support for new programs. Area companies could see the benefits of locally delivered training for apprentices and the ability to hire skilled graduates of the Truck and Coach Technician programs.
"Industries can see the value of having a highly skilled work force in this area, and our students will play an important role in businesses for the long term," Speers said. "Many different companies have been involved right from the start because they rely on the skills and expertise they (students) can bring to the job."
As a training delivery agent for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Conestoga College provides employer sponsored students with a comprehensive apprenticeship program for truck and coach mechanics offered at three levels of training; level 1 (basic), level 2 (intermediate) and level 3 (advanced).
"We work very hard at providing both students and employers with quality programs, and we try to stay connected and up-to-date with industry,” Speers said. “Conestoga College places high-value on student success, both in their programs and in their careers, so it feels good when they get out there and find work."
Independent research has shown the college to be the number one publicly funded college in Ontario for the past nine years. Conestoga boasts a 95 per cent successful job placement rate six months post-graduation with graduates finding work within their chosen fields of study.
Currently there are about 100 students enrolled in the Truck and Coach Technician program, but its popularity could soon see enrollment numbers rise.
"I think in the not-too distant future our program is going to double in size and I could see upwards of 300 students as the program grows and matures," said Speers. "As we grow the truck and coach programs we are investigating how we can expand in other areas such as truck
trailer technician, parts persons, and other related trades. It’s an opportunity to really fully support industry in all areas and we are actively inviting feedback from industry on our plans."
The college is launching a winter pre-apprenticeship Truck and Coach Technician program held at the Guelph campus commencing February 4, 2008. This will be 23 weeks of in-school, hands on training with an eight week work placement. There will be free information
sessions held on Tuesday, November 27 at the Waterloo campus and Tuesday, December 4 at
the Guelph campus. Both of these sessions will start at 5 pm. If you would like more information on the free information sessions, email email@example.com or call 519-748-5220
For further information on Conestoga College and the program, visit their website at www.conestogac.on.ca.
By Liz Roberts
This article orginally published Ontario Trucking News, December 2007 issue