Queen’s Park: MPP Gates calls Niagara College ‘a model of applied education’

Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates praises Niagara College at Queen's Park on December 1, in support of a motion to recognize Colleges Week April 3 to 9, 2017.

Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates praises Niagara College at Queen’s Park on December 1, in support of a motion to recognize Colleges Week April 3 to 9, 2017.

Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates put Niagara College in the spotlight at Queen’s Park on December 1.

Gates was among members who spoke in support of colleges, and the motion before the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ontario’s public college system, by recognizing April 3 to 9 2017 as Colleges Week.

In his speech, Gates noted how Niagara College began as an outdoor, temporary classroom in 1967 and has evolved into a state-of-the-art facility for a variety of programs.

“With this incredible development, Niagara College has been able to place itself as a model of applied education for other educational institutes to try,” said Gates. “In fact, as Niagara College enters their 50th year, I’m happy to report that, while they will certainly pause to look back and reflect, they are still moving ahead with an eye for the future.”

View Gates’ entire speech on pages 46 and 47 of  the Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s Official Report of Debates (Hansard) here:  01-dec-2016_l038  or view text of his speech below.

“First of all, I want to welcome Fred, who is here to see his son, Jackson, who is the page captain today. He’s also a principal, so he understands the importance of education.

It’s a pleasure to rise in this House today to speak in recognition of the amazing work that Ontario’s public colleges do. On May 21, 1965, Bill 153 was tabled. It called for the establishment of alternatives to university in the province of Ontario. Legislatures at the time saw that the options for Ontario students who graduate high school but don’t move on to university were limited and set out to address that problem.

In doing so, they helped to create a new part of the education system that focuses on skills that students need to jump straight from their education into the workforce. It was a revolutionary idea at the time but now is one that we recognize as being an incredibly important part of our education system as a whole.

Madam Speaker, in my riding of Niagara Falls we have some pretty incredible folks working and going to school at Niagara College. In the 50 years since Niagara College was founded, they have done a great job. They started with an outdoor, temporary classroom in 1967 and have evolved to run a truly state-of-the art facility for a number of different programs. Niagara College now features leading-edge technology, labs and specialized classrooms. An on-campus spa is used for teaching.

With this incredible development, Niagara College has been able to place itself as a model of applied education for other educational institutes to try. In fact, as Niagara College enters their 50th year, I’m happy to report that, while they will certainly pause to look back and reflect, they are still moving ahead with an eye for the future.

Construction is under way for a $50-million campus redevelopment project. The project will further modernize the learning environment of Niagara College students and enhance their overall experience while at school. As part of that redevelopment, the school has opened the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre on the Welland campus. The centre became operational as of May this year and is a 15,000-square-foot facility that specializes in engineering, design, 3D digital scanning technology, and lean manufacturing processes, right at the campus.

Niagara College has long had the expertise and equipment to serve the advanced manufacturing sector, but until earlier this year, they lacked a cohesive, dedicated space for applied research projects in this key sector of our economy. In fact, the sector is so important that it now accounts for more than 900 companies, employing 21,000 people, and 16% of the Niagara region’s GDP. That’s the reason why we should never give up on manufacturing, and that’s why we should never say, “Let them die.”

I would like to take a moment at this point in my speech to recognize the contributions of the Walker family and Walker Industries. They made—this is important—the largest corporate donation in the history of Niagara College to get this building built. It’s important to acknowledge people who support colleges.
Another part of the redevelopment project at Niagara College is the expansion of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute. This institution, located on the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus, has already positioned Niagara College as a world leader in food across the country.

Niagara College is home to Canada’s first teaching brewery—this is really interesting, because I know a lot of my colleagues like to go to Niagara-on-the-Lake and try out the brews down in Niagara-on-the-Lake—and commercial teaching winery, as well as a world-renowned full-service teaching restaurant that focuses on local and seasonal cuisine.

When you combine all this with the teaching vineyards, hop yards and organic gardens, there is simply no question that the Canadian Food and Wine Institute delivers a learning environment that is unmatched in Canada and possibly the world.

Now, this 13,000-square-foot addition to the institution will help meet the ever-growing demand for the wine and brewery programs offered through Niagara College.

I’ve got to tell you, I am really looking forward to the completion of construction on the Canadian Food and Wine Institute in the spring of 2017. Hopefully, with all the kind words that I’ve been saying, they’ll invite me to the opening.

This is certainly not all that the college has to boast about. Niagara College has seen their enrolment hold steady while other colleges across the province have seen a decrease. As part of that work, Niagara College has been able to ensure that of their more than 8,000 domestic students, nearly 6,000—think about that; 6,000—or 75% of their students, actually come from the Niagara region. That’s a pretty incredible stat, and I think it’s even more impressive when you consider that more than two thirds of the graduates of Niagara College stay in the Niagara region as they graduate. We all want to keep our kids at home with us.

As well, I’m proud to say that not only does Niagara College do a fantastic job of training our local young people and having them stay in our community, but they have also been able to make sure those young people get jobs, and that’s equally important.

Of the students who graduate from Niagara College, more than 85% are employed in their field within six months of graduating. On top of that, employers report that they are happy with the graduates of the college more than 95% of the time. I think some of the credit must go to the businesses.
I’ve only got 40 seconds left.

It’s critical that we support our local businesses, so I always do everything I can to stand up for them, and I have to say that I really appreciate it when I see them turning around and giving back to our community. This is important, in my last 30 seconds: They hire local students, they provide training opportunities through co-op placements and they work with the college and everyone in the community to make Niagara a better place to work and live.

Clearly, Niagara College and every other public college in the province of Ontario make valuable contributions, not only to the community in which they are located but also to the province as a whole.”

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