10:52 AM

Employing Success

Mohawk is leading the way in partnerships with employers

Jim Vanderveken, Dean of Centre for Community Partnerships and Experiential Learning, Paul Armstrong, Chief Operating Officer, Marty Verhey, Owner, Fora Outdoor LivingDeep and meaningful relationships with employers amplify student success, and ensures Mohawk College is answering the shifting talent needs of the local economy. Making Hamilton a more prosperous and better place to live.

These relationships will ensure that Mohawk is a critical component of economic recovery as Ontario and Canada emerge from the effects of COVID-19.

“There isn’t another postsecondary institution in Ontario that is committed to employer engagement in the way we are. Mohawk is definitely a leader,” said Chief Operating Officer Paul Armstrong.

“The level of commitment to employers here at Mohawk is unique and ground-breaking. It means that we can prepare our students in a way that differentiates them in the labour market.”

The college has established partnerships with thousands of employers and industry stakeholders across all sectors and all programs. Employer engagement comes in a wide variety, including co-ops, internships and field placements, contributions in curriculum development and program advisory committees, joint projects in applied research, and financial and in-kind contributions to classrooms and labs.

“Our employer and workplace partners put a deep level of trust in us and they are willing to invest in Mohawk.

There is an authentic, genuine commitment among our employers to advance the best interest of our students,” said Armstrong.

“These relationships will be at the forefront as our economy finds its stride again and then moves into high gear.”

Mohawk makes it a strategic priority to understand employer needs and challenges and to find ways to answer them, says Jim Vanderveken, Dean of the Centre for Community Partnerships and Experiential Learning.

“Employers are playing a vital role in almost every dimension of our institution and we engage employers of every size across a very broad spectrum of sectors. It is a truly extraordinary constellation of partnerships that we have.”

Strategic commitment

Employer connections will only grow as Mohawk realizes its strategic plan commitment to offer chances for experiential learning in 100 per cent of its programs.

“As a college, we are always endeavouring to take our partnerships with employers to a strategic level,” said Vanderveken.

First connection is often through a co-op or field placement student and as a relationship grows, employers find other ways to engage, including acting as a mentor, speaking to groups of students, serving on a program advisory committee, or helping the college build partnerships with other industry players.

The college also calls on its alumni networks to forge relationships with existing and new employers through inviting leaders to campus events, speaking engagements, and mentorship opportunities with students.

“That’s been a very valuable point of connection for us,” said Armstrong.

The college has also placed a premium on creating connections with Hamilton Economic Development, so that staff there have a clear appreciation of what Mohawk can provide to new or expanding businesses. Armstrong was recently part of a Hamilton Economic Development trade delegation to India.

“We are getting the message out that we can work together on workforce challenges and that our value proposition adds to all the other reasons a company would come to Hamilton.”

Armstrong says Hamilton is unique when it comes to how the major players work together to address challenges and create opportunities.

“The key leaders can build the kinds of personal relationships in Hamilton in which innovation and ideas can flourish. We have a role to play in bringing applied, skills-based educational programming to the table.”

Applied research

Employer connections are the foundation of a range of applied research hubs, including the mHealth and eHealth Development and Innovation Centre (MEDIC), the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre, and the Energy and Power Innovation Centre.

“When employers see the value we provide and how we can deliver, they don’t hesitate to come back with other projects or partnerships,” said Armstrong.

“I think applied research is the most tangible and impactful way that employers access the value of our expertise,” said Jeff McIsaac, Dean of Applied Research.

Industry partners, from start-ups to global giants, benefit from faculty knowledge, resources, culture of innovation and leading-edge equipment and labs, but the real benefit comes in communicating real-world experience and learning to students, says McIsaac.

“It means when they graduate, they can walk into roles with our partners and they are ready and employers know what they can do.”

The Mohawk Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre has partnered on projects in a wide variety of sectors and more than a dozen students have been hired by 3D printing companies. MEDIC has completed projects for governments, healthcare providers and health researchers around the world.

“The kind of applied experience they get at Mohawk differentiates our students from anyone else in the job market. These students are ready to hit the ground running and provide value immediately,” said McIsaac.

Talent imperative

The number one concern of employers today is access to talent and Mohawk is answering that need, says Vanderveken.

“We are responding to the talent imperative across the economy, including food and beverage processing, agriculture, advanced manufacturing, health care and life sciences, early childhood education, social services and business.”

Mohawk is also partnering with the arts, media and entertainment sector and the game design and software development industries, and has established its leadership in digital health, cybersecurity, industrial internet of things, additive manufacturing, and aviation and aerospace.

The latter is evidenced in a new, 70,000-square-foot learning facility for 300 Mohawk aviation students at Hamilton International Airport that is part of a $40-million, three-fold expansion of KF Aerospace’s operations. The partnership with Mohawk demonstrates a new approacheducating potential employees right in the building they could eventually work in.

In a range of Mohawk labs, industry partners have contributed machines, equipment, platforms, and software that optimizes student learning and readiness.

“Employers want to be involved here. There is a substantial appetite to invest in our college and participate in what’s going on here,” said Vanderveken. “They see their investment and support as an integral part of their own strategic planning process.”

Creating an ecosystem where students and employers frequently come together makes for a vibrant learning experience for both, says Vanderveken.

Employers also play a key role in capacity-building initiatives such as City School, which delivers free college courses in underserviced settings, and Challenge 2025, an initiative launched by President Ron McKerlie to target ways Mohawk can address poverty, under-education and labour shortages.

Challenge 2025 brings together Mohawk, Ontario Works, employers and community support agencies, all with the goal of defining exactly the pathway to move an individual into meaningful, life-sustaining employment with an engaged employer.

To learn more about Mohawk's partnering opportunies visit https://www.mohawkcollege.ca/industry-and-employers

Marty Verhey and Jim Vanderveken in front of new City School mobile classroom