Conestoga expands to Cambridge

The Waterloo region will soon be able to chalk up one more educational facility on its roster of post-secondary institutions, as Conestoga College is currently in the process of developing a satellite campus in Cambridge, ON.

The new campus will house the School of Engineering and Information Technology and the Ontario Institute of Food Processing Technology.

“It has been in the plans for seeking approval and funding for several years,” said John Sawicki, manager of public affairs for Conestoga College. “We just received the major funding impetus in the last 12 to 14 months.”

The groundbreaking, to take place at the end of September, will mark the beginning of the construction of phase one, which is scheduled for completion in March 2011. The initial facility will be 260,000 square feet, about one quarter of the size of the Kitchener campus, but it will grow to 1 million square feet through subsequent phases of construction.

“Conestoga is growing at a very rapid pace,” said Andre Beaudry, vice-president of external relations at Conestoga. “We are the fastest growing college out of Ontario’s network.”

Beaudry also cites Conestoga’s increased fall registration which caused growth of first-year enrolment over the past several years, as a major impetus for this project.

The demand for the anticipated program offerings was also a motivating factor in planning for the new campus.

According to Beaudry, “Food processing is the second largest industry in Canada … [and] in terms of a post-secondary education framework to support that industry, it’s almost non-existent in Canada.”

The highly automated nature of the food processing industry dictates Conestoga’s emphasis on developing skilled trades personnel, engineers and technicians. According to Beaudry, “This institute will be first of its kind in Canada.”

“The big thrust behind the institute will be robotics and process automation and advanced manufacturing as elements to support food processing in Ontario,” said Beaudry.

The School of Engineering and Information Technology will have an initial enrolment growth of 2,500 post-secondary students and 1,300 apprentices, while the Institute for Food Processing Technologies will enrol 500 post-secondary and 300 apprenticeship students.

There is a completed site master plan and architectural designs are in development for the two facilities that will both be LEED Silver Certified. Although there are no plans for residence with this phase, Beaudry hopes to see student housing on campus in the future.

The master plans also include the eventual construction of a significant student centre on campus.

Conestoga Cambridge is intended to not only serve an immediate academic population but to reach the larger community as well. “As a post-secondary institution, we see ourselves as an important part of the community,” said Beaudry.

The campus will house numerous nature trails and walking routes available for public use in the hopes of creating an environment that is welcoming for the entire community.

Use of facilities for hosting events will also be offered, and through future expansion Beaudry anticipates the construction of a sports and recreation facility on campus as well.

Funding for the project stems from three main sources: the regional, federal and provincial governments, as part of the Knowledge Infrastructure Program. Private and corporate donations and foundations will also contribute to reaching the balance of funds required.

Beaudry states that the reaction from the student body and other community stakeholders has been strongly positive. “The new facility creates a variety of opportunities,” said Beaudry, noting the ways in which it will stimulate the economy through construction jobs and better serve business and industry.

In his vision for the campus, Beaudry regards the best interests of the student body with utmost importance, describing Conestoga Cambridge as students’ source of “adequate space to learn and build future careers.”