OP/ED

Lambton College urges government to broaden qualification for funding

Mitacs, which works with universities, should broaden its connections to include schools like Lambton College

Canadian colleges play a key role in building a more inclusive Canadian economy.  In the 2017 Budget, the federal government committed to skills training and innovation with the allocation of $221M over five years towards the creation of more work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities through Mitacs. A non-profit, national research organization, Mitacs manages and funds research and training programs for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows through partnerships between academia, industry and government.

Lambton College supports the creation of more work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities for students through Mitacs and strongly encourages the federal government to ensure Canadian colleges and institutes are eligible to receive funding through Mitacs, which will secure WIL opportunities for college and institute research students.  The new funding initiative aims to provide 10,000 internships per year by 2020 for post-secondary students, up from the current level of around 3,750 placements. Expanding these internships to colleges and institutes is absolutely essential to achieving these targets.

As the largest employer of paid research students in Canada for a medium-sized collegeLambton College recognizes the enormous impact applied research opportunities have on students, industry partners, and the economy. Since 2014, Lambton College has provided paid positions for 237 research students, created 65 paid co-op placements, and hired 27 graduate students.  In addition, many Lambton College research students have been hired by the project partner due to their experience and knowledge of working with the company’s processes and products.

A recent example of the mutual benefits of applied research projects involving students is Lambton College’s partnership with KmX, a privately-held cleantech company, based in Oakville, ON, with a portfolio of membrane technologies for the recovery of waste chemicals and brine water. The company partnered with Lambton College to evaluate and optimize their technology through building and improving two pilot plants in Sarnia and Ottawa at Natural Resources Canada. Following the success of earlier projects, KmX and Lambton College, with the support of partners from Alberta, are now building a system in Edmonton that’s six times larger than the pilot unit, which will be suitable for large-scale production for testing oil and gas wastewater.

Through this single industry collaboration, more than 15 Lambton Collegeresearch students and graduates from the Instrumentation & Control Engineering Technology (ICET) and Chemical Production & Power Engineering Technology programs (CPET) have actively worked on this technology. Participation in this project has provided the students with knowledge of an emerging technology, real-life applied research experience, development of new skills, and the opportunity to work directly with an industry partner.

Lambton College’s research students have supported KmX to establish itself as emerging leader within the Canadian cleantech industry, a success that yields both local and national benefits. These successful outcomes will allow KmX to secure employment opportunities at the company’s Ontario facilities, creating at least 10 direct full-time positions (engineering, manufacturing and operation) over the next two years.

KmX and Lambton College’s partnership offers a model of work-integrated learning that includes all of the critical elements required for an enhanced learning environment and for companies who strive to develop or improve products or services for commercialization in a competitive global market.

To leverage these already well-established relationships between colleges and industry it is essential colleges and institutes are eligible to access the federal government’s WIL funding allocated to Mitacs. Colleges and institutes will help maximize the impact of the federal government’s investment while providing WIL opportunities that are in tune with the needs of both students and employers, which will have long-term benefits for students, the College, and our region.

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