CIC - Spring 2019

Building next-generation digital talent at Mohawk College

Mohawk College’s investment in a re-imagining of all its labs is aimed at staying at the cutting-edge of digital technology innovation and tackling industry partnerships of all sizes, as Mohawk continues to be a leader in building the talent pipeline needed for a new digital age.

Nowhere is Mohawk’s commitment more apparent than in the new Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation, a net-zero energy facility equipped with digital sensors controlling and monitoring all aspects of its operation. Every inch of the building, from the basement geothermal pumps to the rooftop solar arrays, are accessible to student learning and building institutional best practices.

“The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation is a critical component to building the digital technology competency of students and industry. Many sectors are considering and in the transition to a better understanding of the digitization in the circular economy. The concepts used can provide better services and products that will positively impact low carbon and sustainability once realised. Mohawk’s sustainability strategies are aimed to ensure students understand, behave and will be job ready to influence how we can operate better as a society,” said David Santi, Dean of Engineering Technology.

“The Joyce Centre will provide the opportunities for students to collect building data using Internet of Things (IOT) devices and use artificial intelligence tools such as Watson Analytics to perform the analytics to determine how to best operate a piece of equipment or design a system better.”

Santi says the partnerships between industry, technology companies, colleges and universities is key to technology adoption in Canada and the resulting productivity improvements. That idea is foundational to Southern Ontario’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster.

A perfect example of such a partnership is Mohawk’s strategic alliance with IBM. The College is recognized as an IBM Premier Academic Initiative participant. One result of this multi-faceted partnership is the use of IBM IOT technologies in a 25,000-square-foot Internet of Things lab, where software such as Watson and Maximo are used to help students and faculty develop, study, and improve IOT systems. As well, many Mohawk labs use IBM’s cloud-based Watson Analytics to provide students with the tools they need to turn data into insight.

Training tomorrow’s talent today

“There is much talk that data is the new oil,” said Tracy Dallaire, Senior Director Technology Integration Academic at Mohawk. “Data cuts across all industry verticals and globally it’s being identified that the talent pool is needed to work in this environment. From an economic and strategic imperative, it’s critical to countries, companies and communities.”

Mohawk also has important partnerships with other technology leaders such as Cisco, EON, Dell, Palo Alto, Microsoft, and VMware. Technology companies provide the digital assets that underlie labs, along with fully developed curriculum and faculty training.

Students get immersed in cutting-edge technology while working on industry projects, often on their way to earning micro-credentials that are fast becoming a prerequisite in the job market, says Dallaire.

“Organizations don’t want to bear the entire cost of training employees,” said Santi. “Our students are getting an education and building their resumes at the same time. They are getting real-world experience through applied projects with industry, co-ops and capstone projects and they leave with micro-certification.”

Mohawk is committed to building digital knowledge into all its program offerings, says Rebecca Isowa, program manager in Continuing Education for technology and skills development.

“A key strategic focus at Mohawk is to embed digital innovative technologies into a broad range of its full-time and continuing education offerings. That includes predictive analytics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, block chain and more. These are skills that can be applied and are in demand in any industry or sector.”

A cutting-edge automation lab has a new digital focus, where data analyzed in the cloud is used to improve a factory’s function, says George Miltenburg, Associate Dean of Engineering Technology.

“We are now building a bio lab, which will be a small-scale factory to produce biofuels. It will be all digitally operated in a partnership with McMaster University. These latest investments make great use of digital technology.”

Planning is also underway for a new digital entrepreneurship and student enterprise centre that will offer core digital skills training in an innovative, applied environment that expands The Agency, a highly successful model at Mohawk.

The College also offers one-of-a-kind programs in augmented and virtual reality, accessible media and cybersecurity.

What differentiates Mohawk’s approach, adds Dallaire, is the view of technology as an ecosystem – individual elements that work independently but also function together as a whole.

“Mohawk students learn about the entire system and that brings great value in the job market because many of the world’s biggest companies don’t build products but ecosystems.”

For those looking to upgrade their skills, Mohawk’s Continuing Education offers more than 150 courses, including Project Management, Web Design, Predictive Analytics and Lean Six Sigma, that cut across a range of disciplines. Students can take a course, earn digital badges and even pursue higher credentials part time, in class or blended.

“The goal is to make people with existing practical skills and knowledge take that to the next step by layering on digital skills and advanced emerging technology expertise. There are so many ways and reasons to learn,” said Isowa.