Ottawa college mulls cuts to traditional trades
Horticulture, toolmaking among programs that could be affected
Algonquin College is considering cutting programs in trades such as horticulture and toolmaking, a decision teachers and some industry observers said would leave local businesses in those fields high and dry.
The push to streamline the college's offerings come as the college struggles to meet higher demand for other programs such as video game development.
Doug Wotherspoon, a member of Algonquin's program review steering committee, said the college has identified 51 new programs it wants to get into and 27 existing programs it wants to expand.
"For that to take place we do have to take a look at the programs that … aren't meeting either the demand or that have a lower relevance."
He said student applications for horticulture, for example, are much lower when compared to other programs, while the costs to run the program are high.
"Greenhouse costs are expensive to operate," said Wotherspoon. "[We are] trying to find ways to lower that cost or increase demand to make that program a stronger one."
Too few graduates
But owners of landscape businesses and nurseries said the industry relies on the college to provide training for the more than 1,000 horticulture businesses. A study done last year by the Canadian Horticulture Alliance says existing horticulture programs in Ottawa can't keep up with demand as it is. Algonquin's program has 60 students.
Botany instructor Mary Ann Jackson Hughes, a teacher at the college for 15 years, said colleges are providing only 10 per cent of people the industry needs.
"With the ban on pesticides there is a much greater need for trained personnel and skilled personnel to keep the nation's capital beautiful," said Hughes.
"Landscape companies and the nursery companies and the design companies would have to train them in house which doesn't give them the broad spectrum education they could get at a college."
Hughes acknowledged the program does need to be revamped to more relevant for industry needs.
The college said it was looking into establishing financial partnerships with a number of industries as a means of saving some programs.
Leonard Lee, founder of Lee Valley Tools, is concerned about the proposed elimination of the toolmaking program, which he says is a "critical" source of qualified apprentices for his company's manufacturing arm.
"They're the source for anybody who's in the machining business who requires machinists," he said, adding that Algonquin graduates tend to be very committed and well-trained.
He has hired dozens so far, but if the program is cut, he said, "we would probably… be reduced to bringing in machinists from other countries."
The college is expected to make a final decision on which programs will be cut in August before the start of the new school year.