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St. Clair College Awarded $500K for Automobility

St. Clair College has been awarded a $500,000 grant by the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN) to launch the Regional Future Workforce Program, a program designed to get more children and youth engaged in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The grant ends on December 15, 2023.

St. Clair College is working in collaboration with several community partners on this project, including Centerline (Windsor) Limited, FIRST Robotics Canada, Invest Windsor-Essex, WETechAlliance, and Women Enterprise Skills Training (WEST) of Windsor. Together, the team is preparing a pilot program designed to encourage students to pursue careers in the automotive and mobility sector, set to launch in September 2023 in schools. According to Waseem Habash, Senior Vice President of Academic & College Operations at St. Clair College, this program is important to the region for several reasons, “It has created a strong working partnership among industry partners, post-secondary education, and four local school boards in Windsor/Essex and Chatham/Lambton/Kent. All the constituent groups are so excited about this partnership that future synergies are already being explored to help enhance STEM training. Providing a venue for post-secondary students to engage with k-12 learners in a hands-on training environment, creates opportunities for mentorship and the ability of all learners to acquire prudent STEM knowledge in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.”

The program will be piloted in both Windsor-Essex County and Chatham-Kent and will focus on early introductions to automobility, skilled trades, and robotics. As part of the program, funds will be used to purchase over 500 robots, with an aim to impact 1000 students in the local community. These robots will play a hands-on role in the program, teaching lessons on coding, programming, automation, and electric vehicle powertrain. Furthermore, this initiative will offer students valuable insights into future STEM careers, specifically in the field of automobility. Nationally, the greatest challenges faced by the automobility sector are raising awareness and addressing labour issues. Larry Koscielski, Vice President of Process & Technology Development from CenterLine, notes the importance of industry supporting initiatives that inspire the future generation to be interested in STEM, “As a global automation company, we wholeheartedly support initiatives that ignites a passion for STEM learning, at any age. We actively collaborate with schools, endorse co-op programs, and champion OYAP and women in STEM programs. As a family-owned business, we gladly accept the responsibility of industry playing an active part in building tomorrow’s desperately needed workforce in trades and engineering.” This is echoed by WETechAlliance’s President and CEO, Yvonne Pilon “STEM skills are the fuel that drives innovation, economic growth, and technological advancements, and by investing in and nurturing our region’s STEM talent, we can position Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent as a hub of excellence, opportunity, and prosperity.”.

The Engaging the Future Automobility Generation team is taking a proactive, community-driven approach by working in partnership with the Greater Essex County District School Board, Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, Lambton Kent District School Board, and St. Clair Catholic District School Board. In doing so, the program hopes to spark students’ interest early. “As technology advances, STEM skills are increasingly in demand. Early exposure to STEM gives children a competitive edge, equipping them with vital skills for the modern workforce, and fostering creativity, critical thinking, and teamwork. Introducing STEM early also helps bridge the gender gap, as research confirms equal interest and capability in both boys and girls. Closing these gaps in underrepresented groups need to be a top priority,”

While the funds were awarded to St. Clair College, the pilot program delivery will tie in the expertise of both St. Clair College’s School of Engineering Technologies, as well as the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Education. The program will focus on mentorship and hands-on interactive STEM lessons.

To prepare for a September start, the STEM program will be piloted as a summer camp, hosted at St. Clair College. Several community groups will be welcomed on campus to engage in the program and provide input on program design and curriculum. Ensuring that all students feel welcome is a key piece to the program, as research suggests stigma exists in STEM fields. Rose Anguiano Hurst, Executive Director for WEST of Windsor is thrilled to be a part of this partnership, recognizing the significance and opportunity this program could have on local students in the region, “WEST recognizes shortages in the skilled trades and values early access to STEM education for students. We are thrilled to be part of the OVIN project, engaging youth in hands-on STEMS programs to cultivate their curiosity about careers in STEM.”

This program will help the region to continue to solidify itself as the Automobility Capital of Canada by ensuring that local students are exposed to pathways and opportunities that exist in the generations to come. “Windsor-Essex has been a leader in automotive manufacturing for over a century and continues to lead the nation in next-generation vehicle production. With continued advancement and investment in this sector, it is critical to provide the support and programming needed to ensure a strong and skilled labour force to meet industry demands. The Regional Future Workforce Program will provide our region’s youth with the STEM skills necessary to succeed in the automobility space. As the leader for the OVIN Windsor-Essex Regional Technology Development Site, we are excited to participate in this program and teach the future workforce how to embrace and utilize advanced technologies that will fuel future industry development.” Stephen MacKenzie, President and CEO, Invest WindsorEssex.

WEtech Alliance has served as a catalyst for technology and innovation in the Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent, Ontario regions since 2011. We’re a non-profit organization that provides entrepreneurs and companies with business services, training, I.P. and commercialization support, mentorship and strategic connections to help bring new ideas to market, scale to the next level and build a dynamic culture and a community of innovation.

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