Mobile Training Centre meets learners where they are

Until June 7, 2023, it was the worst-kept secret in Fredericton…..a 53 foot-long trailer with a nearly four-foot high NBCC logo its side, parked at the corner of Cliffe and Union Streets on Fredericton’s north side. Inside, it’s equipped with wifi, a Surface Hub, tools, fume extractors, and depending on the day, maybe even a hospital bed or a driving simulator. It’s NBCC’s Mobile Training Centre, bringing skills training in a variety of sectors to a rural, remote, or First Nations community near you.

With its official launch on the 50th anniversary of NBCC’s incorporation as a community college, partners and friends of NBCC finally found out what the mysterious trailer was all about, getting their first look inside at the spectrum of program training that can be moved from on-campus to on the road.

Why does New Brunswick need a Mobile Training Centre? For forestry company AV Group, which operates mills in Atholville and Nackawic, the possibilities are almost endless.

“We’ve got some definite ideas of how the Mobile Training Centre can support our training needs,” said Mike Legere, Director of Government Relations and Communications for AV Group. “Beyond our mills, our woodlands operations are in quite rural communities so it’s important to us to be able to bring training to prospective and current employees.”

With many skilled trades sectors facing critical labour shortages, training in those professions is an obvious starting point, Legere said. But AV Group sees a wide range of training possibilities in any number of sectors.

“Among our workforce, we have identified more than 50 different jobs that NBCC trains students for – skilled trades, yes, but also administrative, IT, lab techs, accounting, the list goes on,” he noted. “We see the Mobile Training Centre being able to provide at least part of the training for all of those positions.”

AV Group is also eager to explore the promotional potential of the Mobile Training Centre in attracting the next generation of skilled workers to these sectors. The Mobile Training Centre serves as a powerful recruitment tool, giving New Brunswick youth the opportunity to try on a potential career as it visits schools and communities around the province. As sectors like the skilled trades and health care face critical labour shortages, exposing young people to the possibilities and realities of these careers.

“It’s a great recruitment tool in terms of giving secondary students the chance to get a taste of a certain program area,” Legere said. “It’s a great chance for them to get exposed to the basics of trades to see if it’s something they like as they’re making career decisions. I can’t stress enough the value of it as a recruitment tool.”

Jamie Slipp, General Manager of the New Brunswick Roofing Contractors Association (NBRCA), agrees.

“The Mobile Training Centre is very prominent when it’s in a community,” Slipp noted. “It’s a great way to promote awareness of the construction industry.”

The NBRCA also recognizes the value in being able to take training opportunities into communities, both for short-term professional development courses and for longer-term programs, he added.

“Going into remote areas with it, that’s where we end up finding a lot of our good workers. Being able to give them an actual trade learning opportunity in their own communities is much more beneficial both to employees and employers. If they have to travel to a campus in a larger centre and they’ve got children at home and other responsibilities, that can be very challenging. It can be a deterrent that keeps them from getting the skills they want, the skills that are needed by the industry.”

Removing barriers to post-secondary education like geography is central to NBCC’s Going Beyond campaign to transform New Brunswick’s workforce, said Mary Butler, President and CEO of NBCC. The Mobile Training Centre is a key component of the College’s plans to reach unprecedented numbers of learners by overcoming the obstacles that have traditionally kept people out of post-secondary education.

“For 50 years, NBCC’s one- and two-year programs delivered on our campuses have worked for a lot of students, but we know there are those who are kept out of post-secondary by financial barriers, lack of transportation, and family responsibilities at home,” she said. “By meeting learners where they are, in their own communities, we’re making training more accessible to more people, and that’s what is needed to grow New Brunswick’s workforce.”

The Mobile Training Centre is made possible through the financial support of the Government of New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and private sector partners including AV Group, NBRCA, and HPEAruba Canada, a cloud networking solutions company, among others.

“We’re thrilled to be supporting NBCC in developing their Mobile Training Centre, as well as providing upgrades to their connectivity across all six campuses,” said Bruce Hanley, Vice President and General Manager of HPEAruba Canada. “We want to support the next generation both in their education and entering the workforce, and having the highest reliability to mobile users anywhere on campus will be integral to empowering optimal learning, sharing, and developing. The Mobile Training Centre is impressively innovative, and will bring state-of-the-art equipment, training, and programs to those outside of NBCC campuses.”

Other sponsors of the Mobile Training Centre include TD and the CIBC Foundation. From a sponsor’s perspective, Legere noted, the decision to support the Mobile Training Centre was an easy one.

“The way this whole project unfolded, it almost seemed effortless. I know it wasn’t; I know it took a lot of hard work,” he said. “But the companies backing it, governments backing it….everyone, from the get go, saw the value in this and got behind it. We had the wind at our backs pushing this along.”

Editor’s Note: This story was originally written for the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce’s INSIGHT magazine and published on July 4, 2023.

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