A $69-million trades school is coming to Algonquin College, but finding enough of the type of skilled workers that will one day be trained there to build it may prove difficult.

“If you look at what’s going on in the city with the congress centre (expansion) and the Transit way and this building … it’s quite possible that we’ll be at a shortage,” said John Paul Tapp, dean of the college’s school of transportation and building trades.

With a trades shortage looming, yesterday’s announcement of $35 million in provincial funds for the expansion is welcomed by the construction industry, which estimates it must recruit 300,000 people by 2016 just to replace retiring workers in Canada.


“It’s such a huge demand, yet we don’t have the training spaces,” Jeff Morrison, with the Canadian Construction Association (CCA), said last month in joining the college’s appeal for government funds.

Yesterday, the province answered with its investment. “We’ve got to continue to work at the highest level of competition and that is by continuing to invest in the skills and education of our people,” Premier Dalton McGuinty said at the announcement.

College president Bob Gillett said $136 million is needed for the total expansion, but the federal government has not responded to requests for a contribution. The provincial money, Gillett said, allows Algonquin to proceed with the first phase — a $69-million construction trades complex, with room for 600 students.

The second phase is a health care centre that would add 2,000 spaces to train nurses and other professionals.

A pedestrian walkway will span Woodroffe Avenue and connect the expansion to the campus. Every aspect of the mechanics and operations of the building would be exposed to the students so they can learn from servicing it like a “living lab”.

Tapp said the college is targeting platinum or gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status for the building, which means it would make the most efficient use of water, energy, and materials.

Construction is expected to begin in 2009, with classes starting in September 2011.

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