On January 16, Durham College (DC) employees, students and members of the broader community gathered at the Whitby campus to celebrate the start of construction on its Phase IV expansion, which has been designed to shine a spotlight on skilled trades training, innovation and education.
Also in attendance were Member of Parliament for Whitby, Ryan Turnbull; Member of Provincial Parliament, Lorne Coe; John Henry, chair for the Regional Municipality of Durham; and Whitby Deputy Mayor Steve Yamada, who, along with DC President Don Lovisa, spoke of the challenges currently facing skilled trades.
“The college continuously hears from its partners that they need more skilled workers and would like new programs developed to focus on emerging industries,” said Lovisa. “Yet in spite of our current efforts, the ability to keep up with the demand remains a challenge due to the physical space constraints at the Whitby campus. For example, the student population has increased by 130 per cent in the past 10 years.”
Given the skilled labour shortage at the regional, provincial and national level, the timing of this new project could not be better. Colleges Ontario forecasts that by 2030 the province will face a skilled labour shortage of more than 500,000 workers.
When it comes to skilled trades at DC, data from the last three years was recently studied, looking at seats available compared to applications for nine trades programs. It was found there were approximately 2,400 seats available, yet the college received approximately 7,000 applications for these programs.
To address this demand, the college has been undertaking development and diversification in Whitby since 2009. Phase IV will result in a 60,000 square-foot expansion, allowing DC to increase its student intake in Whitby by 700 to 750 over three to five years.
“More space will allow the college to focus on high-priority industries – DC’s post-secondary Electrical Engineering Technician, Electrical Techniques, Mechanical Technician – Elevating Devices and Mechanical Techniques – Plumbing programs, as well as the Electrician – Construction and Maintenance, Elevating Devices Mechanic and Plumber apprenticeship programs,” said Rebecca Milburn, executive dean of the School of Skilled Trades, Apprenticeship and Renewable Technology and principal at the Whitby campus. “Once complete, this expansion will significantly increase DC’s industrial skilled trades training capacity, while also creating more opportunities to participate in applied research projects to advance innovation and knowledge.”
The following are some of the unique features of the expansion:
- A double-height shop lab to address the specialized needs of both the mechanical and construction programs. Home to a two-storey building model, the lab will allow plumbing students to work underneath it while elevating devices students will be able to work in an easily accessible dual-level elevator shaft.
- Classrooms with moveable walls and furniture to accommodate various configurations.
- Training labs with dedicated space and equipment for a range of post-secondary and apprenticeship programs.
- Student touchdown spaces.
- A fitness centre.
- A food services facility.
Partnering with DC to help fund the expansion is the Town of Whitby, who is generously contributing $1 million over a five-year period to support the construction. A Building for Skills capital campaign will also be launched shortly to generate additional donations.
More information about the Phase IV expansion, as well as construction progress updates can be found at www.durhamcollege.ca/skills.