Cambridge, Ontario — A former hub of southern Ontario’s tech industry is due for a makeover to fit modern times, as representatives from Conestoga College announced on Monday that a building formerly owned by BlackBerry will be the new site of the school’s skilled trades campus.
With these plans to retrofit the approximately 31,123 sq.-m. facility, the college’s dean of trades and apprenticeships, Suzanne Moyer said, “We are trying to serve the needs of industry.”
Conestoga is expecting that the addition of this new facility will increase training capacity at the college by about 40 percent.
The new facility will see its programming rolled out in two phases, beginning with the launch of plumbing, electrical, carpentry apprenticeship and machining trades programs, in September.
The September 2023 school year will then see phase two launch with HVAC, millwright and electrical/mechanical automation trades.
Moyer says she hopes the opening of this facility, which will be the largest of its kind in Canada, will help Conestoga draw in 1,200 full-time students and 4,000 apprentices over the next two years.
“We are growing and we always want to be a college that offers something for everyone…pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, post-secondary diplomas and degrees,” said Moyer.
She says that part of the aim of this new facility is to present a new face to the trades, and offer students “a living lab” that creates an open and welcoming environment for introducing students to the trades.
Tony Thoma, executive dean of engineering, technology and trades at Conestoga College, said “We don’t want trades to be thought of as second class.”
The college will continue to offer introductory or level one apprenticeship training at its satellite campuses in Brantford, Ingersoll, Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo and Guelph, though Conestoga’s long-term efforts in this regard will be focused on consolidating the trades school to the new Cambridge facility.
“We decided to amalgamate and have a proper home for the trades,” says Thoma.