Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com
From left: Confederation College president Jim Madder, MPP Michael Gravelle and Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs take in a welding demonstration at Confederation College on Friday.
THUNDER BAY – Northern Ontario colleges are getting a boost to be more attractive to prospective students in southern parts of the province.
Six community colleges will receive $3-million from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund to create Study North, a three-year program that will look to enhance the profile of the schools. MPP Michael Gravelle (Lib., Thunder Bay-Superior North) made the announcement on Friday at Confederation College.
The initiative is a collaborative effort between Thunder Bay’s Confederation College, Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie, Collège Boréal and Cambrian College in Sudbury, Canadore College in North Bay and Northern College in Timmins.
Confederation College president Jim Madder said that area of the province is a virtually untapped recruiting market for northern schools.
“If you look at the number of people applying for programs in the downtown Toronto area there are not enough seats to support them,” he said.
“We have a lot of empty seats I would love to see filled with people.”
Madder stressed the initiative will highlight unique program offerings at the various schools.
He identified flight and aviation as a primary sector that is often overlooked by prospective students and listed the rotary flight program at Canadore, aviation manufacturing at Confederation and flight programs at Sault College.
Awareness of the programs seems to be high, just not in that particular area.
“We have people actually coming internationally to take that program but we have very few coming from Southern Ontario,” Madder said.
An emphasis will also be placed on resource-based sectors, such as mining and forestry.
The colleges will identify labour shortages, skill needs and job opportunities through work with industry and community partners to make the schools desirable destinations.
Part of the program will see the colleges hire three recruiters, who are from and will be based in Southern Ontario but attended one of the northern schools, to help sell the merits of getting education in the northern region.
There will also be advertisements through various media platforms to generate awareness.
Gravelle is optimistic the marketing and recruiting venture will lead to higher enrollment on all of the campuses.
“We know the graduation rates are high, we know the course choices are tremendous up here so we want to be as supportive as we can,” Gravelle said.