Shuttered ag trades workshop to gear back up at Kemptville campus

North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford, touring the mothballed power and equipment shop — soon to be revived. Van Dusen photo, Nation Valley News

Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News

KEMPTVILLE — Closed down tight after University of Guelph pulled out four years ago, the Kemptville Campus Power & Equipment Building workshop is to get a new lease on life as part of a technical trades training centre.

The entire building including shop, classrooms and offices was officially leased for five years Wednesday from current owner Municipality of North Grenville which acquired the campus minus the 200-acre farm portion from the provincial government two years ago. It has since become an education hub occupied by four regional school boards.

In a partnership with the municipal Kemptville Campus Education and Community Centre, one of those boards, Upper Canada District, has agreed to develop the Commercial Vehicle Apprenticeship Training Centre with an emphasis on agriculture technology and other courses in truck and coach, and heavy equipment technician.

Van Dusen photo, Nation Valley News

The bilingual program will be established largely through the school board’s renowned T.R. Leger School of Adult Alternative and Continuing Education which already has a branch on campus. It’s expected the first students will be welcomed in the fall of 2021. The darkened shop is part of the revival; the classrooms and offices have been used intermittently since U of G departed.

During the signing, the partnership was given a big masked thumbs up by all the main players involved, including UCDSB chair John McAllister and North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford – also chair of the education centre – who thanked the school board for its leadership role assisting in bringing trades training back on campus.

A diesel fan, McAllister said he wants the program to become known the same way his favourite engine is… for torque and efficiency! He’s pleased with T.R. Leger’s “expanded footprint” on campus in an approach he knows aligns with emerging priorities of regional municipalities and counties.

Always a promoter of returning an agricultural component to the former U of G satellite, an “incredibly excited” Peckford said industry stakeholders desperate for skilled technical staff are already stepping up with offers of support for the new program.

UCDSB Director of Education Stephen Sliwa observed there are blue-collar jobs and white-collar jobs but the new program will be preparing graduates for gold-collar jobs. Because of the skilled worker shortage regionally and across the province, almost all of those who complete the program are guaranteed work.

Several weeks ago, the school board applied to the provincial government to run such a program but was turned down. It was only after the board partnered with the campus and area MPP — influential Ontario Cabinet Minister — Steve Clark became involved did the plan get legs. Three weeks ago, Clark came to Kemptville to announce funding for technical trades courses.

A highlight for Peckford Wednesday was a visit to the workshop which she had never seen before. It still contains several older tractors, parts and tools largely intact. Education centre manager Pat Remillard said a full inventory will be taken and all necessary equipment will be in place when the program is launched next fall with a formal rededication of the facility.

 

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