Cornwall agritech school starting in September

Cornwall Innovation Center Executive Director Kelly Bergeron announces $477,000 from the Ontario government to launch a new agritech course during a news conference at Nav Center on Friday, April 13, 2018. The 10-week course will take up to 160 students, starting in September. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – After putting a dozen businesses through an accelerator program and counseling 30 others, the Cornwall Innovation Center (CIC) is branching into an emerging economy – agritech.

The CIC has received $477,000 from Ontario’s Skills Catalyst Fund to develop an Ontario Emerging Jobs Institute at Nav Center, CIC Executive Director Kelly Bergeron announced Friday morning.

It will be an intensive 10-week training course with a work placement component, which will dovetail with CIC’s Lead to Win program, by having students do coops at the dozen companies enrolled in the accelerator program.

The center plans to take up to 160 students. Twenty of the 160 will go to the school under a scholarship, “full expenses paid,” meaning they will have boarding and meals at Nav Center. The others will be responsible for lodging and meals.

The program, which is slated to start in September, will be free and will give preference to local residents. Applicants will go through a means test.

“To those who demonstrate the need for emerging job training, including the unemployed and underemployed and those seeking to upscale,” Bergeron said. “We’re going to try to reach out of people who need this type of training…and bring them here. At the same time, promote Cornwall as a center of innovation.”

“We will offer modern an innovative curricula, including agritech training, digital skills training through Canada Learning Code, business skills training and a blended learning solution,” she said.

With the word free, Bergeron is not really worried about an onslaught of applicants. “Some of the programs I run for adults that are free, people don’t show up or they don’t register. I’ve cancelled a lot of adult programming.”

Michael MacGillivray, executive director of Cornwall and the Counties Community Futures Development Corporation, says they will be working with local partners in agriculture to figure out where the industry is heading over the next decade in order to build an appropriate curriculum.

The course is expected to get people ready for “good paying” jobs in the sector, which could pay $70,000-90,000 a year.

The program will also mean four or five new jobs within the CIC, including two or three instructors and a curriculum developer.

“This announcement today talks about improving our resources in the entire community in a variety of different areas. It’s all about the people…giving them the skills necessary to succeed and in helping business in providing them with the workforce they need to succeed,” said Bob Peters, spokesman for Cornwall’s economic development department.

Kelly Bergeron also acknowledged the Eastern Ontario Training Board and Cornwall and the Counties Community Futures Development Corporation for being “catalysts” in making the institute happen.