Four colleges across Canada — from Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia — are partnering for a new tuition-free training program that supports economic recovery for the supply-chain and goods-movement sector.
The program builds upon a successful model used by Mohawk College’s City School initiative in Hamilton that combines industry-driven training, individualized student support and practical work experience to provide services for people who face barriers to employment and education. It’s slated to benefit 243 people who are not currently enrolled for post-secondary education and have been historically underrepresented or underserved in their local communities.
One of the four colleges partnering for the initiative is Red River College in Winnipeg. The others include Nova Scotia Community College, Mohawk College and Vancouver Community College.
Funding for the new partnership — around $3 million in total — comes from the Future Skills Centre, an independent consortium funded by the federal government, whose members include Ryerson University and the Conference Board of Canada.
"Several employers in the supply-chain sector have been suffering from labour shortages and disruptive technologies have left many workers behind during COVID-19," said Ron McKerlie, president and CEO of Mohawk College, providing details for the program at a news conference Monday.
"This is a way to combat those shortages with skilled workers and provide a lasting, meaningful job for the people who most deserve it."
The program, dubbed "Material Handling 4.0," will consist of a six-week virtual training component followed by a two-week paid placement with a local employer. Participants will be provided with supports including a dedicated employment consultant for the program, provisions for child-care services, personal protective equipment and appropriate referrals to support services.
Upon completion, participants will receive a micro-credential and employment services to help them successfully transition into long-term, stable employment.
"That’s the biggest reason for why we’re so excited to be partnering for this — because not only is Winnipeg a hub for the supply chain industry, but the opportunities for partnering with many, many employers are just endless," said Christine Watson, academic and research vice-president at Red River College, in an interview. "And it’ll definitely be creating jobs for our students."
Amazon’s arrival in Winnipeg, which the Free Press exclusively reported is bringing two last-mile distribution centres in the city, could make it one of those partners.
Watson could not say whether a partnership with the trillion-dollar business giant has been finalized, but she said that’s something "ongoing" and might be a part of a program like this one.
"When, for example, Amazon comes into Winnipeg, they’re looking for talent," she said. "They’re looking for trained employees with specific skills and so we can provide them with that, along with providing the wrap-around support that they’ll need."
Other colleges are equally thrilled about the potential for the new program. "This program model delivered in the heart of our city aligns perfectly with our values," said Ajay Patel, president and CEO of Vancouver Community College.
"We’ve been a longtime fan of this model, which will help build the economy and quality of life within our province," said Anna Burke, academic vice-president at Nova Scotia Community College. "The collaborative work will allow us to quickly harness educational resources for a unique training opportunity.
"As we continue to recover from COVID-19, our government is helping job-seekers up-skill and re-skill to fill in-demand jobs," said Carla Qualtrough, the federal minister for employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, in a statement Monday. "Further investments through the Future Skills Centre will allow new partnerships to expand the project’s reach and continue this important work."
Mohawk begins classes for the program this week, and partner colleges will launch their cohorts in the fall.
Temur Durrani reports on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for this Free Press reporting position comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.