By Ashliegh Gehl
Loyalist College unveiled its $16.6-million skills centre Monday, showcasing programs aimed at stimulating the local economy.
The new Sustainable Skills, Technology and Life Sciences Centre is home to the school of biosciences, skills training, architecture and building sciences. Programs are aimed at giving students the skills to live and work in their community.
Prince Edward-Hastings MP Daryl Kramp said the new centre is going to have a significant impact on Belleville.
“Obviously it’s going to attract business,” said Kramp in an interview. “It’s an economic platform. It’s training. It’s an advantage for our young people. It gives so many more of them the opportunity that they’ve never had before. The diversity is here.”
The centre has 45,000 square feet of ‘green’ space, with an additional 69,000 square feet for 20 teaching laboratories and shops, three research labs and six classrooms. It’s designed to accommodate 250 full-time students.
The college received $8.3-million in funding through the Knowledge Infrastructure Program and $8.3-million from Ontario’s 2009 budget.
The centre was designed by Robertson Simmons Architects and constructed by Ball Construction. The building qualifies for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver level of certification. It’s water and energy efficient, on top of being constructed with salvaged materials.
The skills centre will draw new companies to the city and create jobs, Kramp said.
Belleville’s unemployment rate sits at 9.1, above the 7.6 national average.
Kramp said Belleville’s unemployment rate is decreasing and it’s projects lke the skills centre that will bring new jobs to Belleville.
“Most importantly, what this will do is clearly establish the opportunity for companies to take advantage of these facilities. Companies like Proctor & Gamble and Kelloggs have already done that.”
More than 150 community partners, politicians, students and staff attended the skill centre grand opening, taking tours around the facility.
In an address, Prince Edward-Hasting MPP Leona Dombrowsky said the new centre is the college’s way of keeping educated people in the region.
“If there wasn’t a program in place, they put it in place,” said Dombrowsky.
In the shadow of praise is an unsolved mystery.
In mid-October, $150,000 worth of automotive and welding hand tools and testing equipment went missing.
“There’s no update at this point in time, in terms of the missing equipment situation,” said Dianne Spencer, Executive Director of College Advancement and External Relations.
Spencer said the insurance company is investigating the situation.
The college is now seeking $5 million to $6 million to furnish, stock and equip the centre.
“The funds that came in from the senior levels of government did provide for the construction of the centre,” said Spencer. “The chair of the board mentioned, now the focus will be on looking for funds and additional support to equip the center.”
Once completed, the skill centre will be a $22.5 million facility, said Stuart Wright, chair of the Board of Governors.
Wilf Wilkinson, former chair of the Board of Governors, and Bernie Ouellet, vice-chair of the Loyalist College Foundation are spearheading the campaign.