Niagara College’s new $1.4 million Green Automotive Technology Lab is officially open.
The 3,600 square-foot addition to the college’s Rankin Technology Centre is equipped with the latest green automotive technology, including advanced diagnostic tools and charging stations that will give automotive students the ability to work on electric, hybrid and other alternative-fuel vehicles.
The grand opening event was held Wednesday at the college’s Welland campus.
“The world is greening all over,” said St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, who spoke at the event.
“If you want to be competitive, you have to have competitive labs such as this, with the appropriate lab equipment.”
Niagara College president Dan Patterson said the facility will help prepare students for the job market in a changing automotive industry.
“Lots of changes are happening with that sector, with autonomous vehicles … the whole movement to hybrid,” he said.
“(The students) are going to get state-of-the-art equipment to work on, so employers who are hiring in this field will know they’ve got the right skills and knowledge.”
Patterson said Niagara College is becoming increasingly known for its ability to “get ahead of the curve” and anticipate labour market needs.
“We’re going to see big changes in automotive and we’re getting ready for that now, not waiting and sitting back … it’s advanced skills for employment.”
Shamil Becharbhai, service operations manager for Henley Honda and Subaru of Niagara, said green vehicles are going to become the new standard in the next five to 10 years.
He said automotive technicians have become more like computer programmers, requiring new skills when it comes to the technology and safety components of hybrid and electric vehicles.
Becharbhai, a member of the motive power program advisory committee for the college, said 43 per cent of his recent technicians are from Niagara College.
Christenah D’Archi, a second-year motive power student, took the opportunity to thank the college and the province for their support in building the new lab.
“The need for experience will only grow,” she said.
“Having access to the green tech lab has been an incredible asset to my classmates and I, as it will be to future motive power students.”
Niagara Region chair Alan Caslin said it’s “incredible” to see how the college’s programs — as well as the industries — have developed and evolved, especially having attended Niagara College himself when the electronics program was first offered in 1978.