“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.
Labour shortages were a consistent headline throughout 2021 and the engineering and manufacturing sector was not immune. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters in October, 82 per cent of the 445 companies surveyed say they were facing labour shortages and 75 per cent feel they had a harder time finding employees in 2021 than the year before.
Canadore College has recognized that gap in the workforce and is hoping its new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Management Degree can help fill in some of that void.
“We had been hearing that northern Ontario companies were having these issues, and so the college brought the proposal forward to the Post-Secondary Education Quality Assessment Board and it received approval,” says Dr. Vimal Savsani.
“The main idea is to address the gap in the skills that most companies in northern Ontario are facing. They want students that have skills in modern manufacturing, business and technology management, automation, and robotics.”
The work to bring this four-year degree to Canadore preceded Savsani joining the college faculty in the fall of 2019, but the Professor in Mechanical Engineering has been heavily involved in the process since his arrival, and he says this program should be attractive to students for its uniqueness and effectiveness.
He says what’s unique is that “traditional four-year degree programs allow you to get your degree in mechanical engineering or production engineering, but we did not have a course in which students could get the knowledge of advanced manufacturing and technology management until now.”
“Our first three semesters of the program will be focused on education on robotics, electrical work and electronics, and introduction to manufacturing. Then semesters four through six, students will learn core manufacturing and mechanical engineering, automation, and robotics.”
Savsani says following that they get a 14-week placement.
“We think this is a very unique structure that they can’t find in any university degree program where most universities focus on theory. Here we are focusing on theory and practical learning which will really prepare our students for the workforce.”
And that’s where he says the effectiveness of the program comes in.
“Nowadays, the modern manufacturing sector uses a lot of technologies that are getting more advanced, day by day,” he says.
“They are lacking in the skilled labourers that can keep up with the rapid pace of that technological movement, especially in advanced manufacturing. It’s not just northern Ontario businesses that are facing that dilemma, but this type of program would be very beneficial because we can turn out a ready-made product in the form of a student that can work in the type of space which they need.”
Savsani says this program will get students ready to work in modern manufacturing which would see them work in anything that relates to automation, robotics, and technology management. “
“Students can find themselves working at entry-level managerial positions in manufacturing, automation, and robotics sectors. They can also start their career in technology management, business data analysis, and product development,” he says.
“Advanced manufacturing is not only used in the production of end goods. It also supports other industries including, mining, forestry, construction, and utilities. There are so many positions that will be looking for students with this degree and skill set. Northern Ontario is expected to experience a somewhat different outlook, given the changing industry profile and retirements across the manufacturing workforce. The mining sector is a key economic driver in northern Ontario with two-thirds of all mining jobs in Ontario located here.
There are over 200 mining, manufacturing, and engineering companies that are within a 1.5 hour driving distance from Canadore College”
Savsani is just one of several people who played a role in bringing this program to the college, but he brings with him a huge pedigree of knowledge to associate with their first degree at the bachelor level.
For one thing, Savsani is in the top 2 per cent of researchers/scientists cited regularly around the globe.
“I started my research in 2008 when I first started working toward my PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Following that, I was a postdoctoral fellow at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia. Through that I had developed a new optimization technique for machine design, which is helpful for optimizing any mechanical system based on performance,” says Savsani.
It was around that time he had published close to 65 research articles and journalistic papers and was asked to present his research at international conferences.
“That two per cent is based on that research that was then cited by other researchers. More than 7,000 researchers have quoted my work according to the Elsevier database,” says Savsani.
“I’m proud of myself, to know that my work is that well recognized. I use that as a motivation to strive for continued and better research as my career continues.”
After starting his career with ABB Ltd., he shifted to academics in 2004.
“Since 2004 it really has been one of my passions to teach and prepare students for this industry, while also continuing my own research as well,” says Savsani.
He says having a large contingent of first-year students enrolling in this program in the fall of 2022 would mean a lot to himself and the team at Canadore.
“Our whole team has worked hard to develop the program and we’re now marketing it to prospective students domestically as well as internationally,” says Savsani.
“We believe we can have success in attracting a large number of students because we have the advantage of having the ICAMP (Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping at the Commerce Court Campus) facility where we have large manufacturing industry capabilities such as prototyping and design. That, I think, is going to be a strong selling point and a big advantage for our program.”
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