St. Clair College’s plan to create an aviation program to support Premier Aviation and maintenance, repair and overhaul operations in Windsor has been put on hold.
In 2011, the City of Windsor, along with Premier Aviation of Trois-Rivières, Que., announced in a media release "a partnership" with St. Clair College. At that time, the school was "in the planning stages of its aviation program ... to support this important new sector of our regional economy," the release said.
However, Ron Seguin, the vice president of global education and training services, told CBC News on Monday there is no training program at St. Clair and no further talks planned with the company.
Seguin said the original plan was to teach students what he called "low-skilled positions" to get a foot in the aviation industry’s door.
St. Clair was planning to offer a customized program that would teach things like re-upholstering planes, painting and small-part removal.
Seguin said he has flown to Premier’s headquarters in Trois Rivières four times to work with the company. The last time they spoke was about a year ago at Windsor International Airport.
Seguin isn't sure of the reason why the program never took off, but he figures it was due to a number of factors, including ownership of curriculum and cost.
He said Premier Aviation is a good company.
Seguin said based on his meetings, Premier is serious about Windsor, but said this kind of industry and facility takes time to get off the ground.
He said if the company takes off, the college could look at getting into aviation in the future.
Premier Aviation CEO Ronnie DiBartolo said he is still willing to work with St. Clair College.
DiBartolo said Premier offered St. Clair College space, equipment and curriculum but it didn’t happen. He thinks there must be a misunderstanding between the school and his company, although he admits to be looking at other colleges to deliver the curriculum.
DiBartolo insists Premier will need to hire “hundreds” of employees in Windsor and that they would have a “bright future.”
He said he chose Windsor because of the city’s experience in skilled trades.
Aerospace takes off at university
Meanwhile, the University of Windsor has hired two new faculty members to teach in its aerospace engineering program.
In 2011, the province announced it would invest $2-million in a new clean room for the school’s aerospace program, which is part of the university’s $112-million Centre for Engineering Innovation.
Andrzej Sobiesiak, the university’s head of mechanical, automotive and materials engineering, said the first class of 50-80 aerospace engineers begins in September 2014.
He said the school “wanted to do something different with our aerospace program.”
It still offers traditional courses in propulsion and structure, he said. However, it also includes aircraft maintenance, engine rebuild, and skills that can be used at Premier Aviation’s Windsor facility.
Sobiesiak said the university wanted to give graduates “a good knowledge of maintenance" for jobs here in Windsor “and beyond.”
Sobiesiak said the university has no partnership or dealings with Premier Aviation.