Humber’s Advanced Manufacturing Skills Consortium sets students and industry up for success

Darren Lawless, PhD
Dean, Applied Research & Innovation
Humber College

According to the Conference Board of Canada, Ontario’s skills shortages are costing us as much as $24.3 billion in GDP – and as things stand now, the skills gaps will only grow if we don’t start taking different approaches.

At Humber College, we are taking bold steps to help shape the future of industry through our unique model of polytechnic education and respond to the needs of business.

A few years ago, we began to implement our vision of bringing a technology and innovation hub to Humber. To be successful, we knew we had to accomplish two things right away. One was to be different in our approach to innovation. The other was to emphasize partnerships and seize the opportunity to work with and learn from industry leaders.

The result is our groundbreaking Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation (Barrett CTI), which is scheduled to open in early 2019. Within it, we will pioneer new solutions to technological and innovation challenges in advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0.

Once complete, the five-storey, 93,000 square-foot space will feature a state-of-the-art data centre, cyber-physical factory, automated guided vehicles, prototyping labs, makerspaces, interactive technology zones and digital media studios.

The centre, which is located at Humber’s North Campus in Toronto, will enable industry to work with faculty and students to drive adoption of new technologies Canadian companies need to succeed in a rapidly changing economy.

In 2016, Humber received the largest donation in its history from the Barrett Family Foundation, enabling the college to start work on the Barrett CTI. The federal and provincial government also provided funding through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund.

Humber’s vision is resonating with industry who are also providing significant resources to support the initiative. As of October, we have signed five-year agreements with seven of the country’s leading technology and innovation companies. These partnerships will create new learning pathways and opportunities for students, faculty, and industry experts to work together using the latest technology to solve real-world business challenges. Partners are providing Humber with the latest technology and equipment and our students and graduates with scholarships, and internship and job opportunities.

Cimetrix, Cisco Canada, Festo Didactic, SEW-EURODRIVE, DMG MORI Canada Inc., Kuka Canada and Rockwell Automation have become founding members of Humber’s Advanced Manufacturing Skills Consortium. Through experiential learning, applied research projects, exposure to the latest technologies and interactions with our partners, we will be equipping our students with the skills necessary to succeed in an ever-changing global economy – the skills in demand by employers across the board.

Like all Canadian polytechnics and colleges, Humber has always valued and relied on the expertise of our industry partners. The Barrett CTI and the Advanced Manufacturing Skills Consortium are now raising the bar when it comes to how we build multi-faceted partnerships. They also provide a new platform to engage local companies in discussions about technology adoption and space for them to come and interact first-hand with cutting-edge equipment. Not only can we assist them in future-proofing their operations, as an educational provider, we can help them with a plan to train and upskill their current workforce.

In coming together as the Advanced Manufacturing Skills Consortium, I’m confident that we will teach and learn from each other, in turn, enhancing future opportunities for both employers, employees and students.

We believe that applied research projects and collaborative work between polytechnic institutions and private and public sector partners is the best way to put our students ahead of the curve in a competitive knowledge and skills driven economy.

As we collaborate, our industry partners have new ways to introduce their technologies to the next generation of employees. They in turn benefit from fresh, innovative ideas from aspiring professionals who are looking for real-world, work-integrated learning experiences. We think it is the best of both worlds. While there may be no traditional classrooms in the Barrett CTI, there’s no doubt that the amount of learning that will occur in it will be immense.