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How Algonquin helps Tomlinson invest in its people

Sylvie Rimbach
Sylvie Rimbach

Tomlinson may be Eastern Canada’s leader in transportation infrastructure and environmental services, but its core value is its people.

This is no idle claim. Tomlinson, like most every other employer these days, is faced with record-low unemployment rates and stiff competition to attract and retain the talent it needs. In 2014, the company launched Tomlinson University, which delivers in-house training and workshops, mentorship programs and various bursary awards programs for both employees and their family members.

Sylvie Rimbach

“We found that our employees want these opportunities and to work for a company that is willing to invest in their development,” said Human Resources Manager Dana Lewis.

While its people may be core to everything it does, training and education is not core to Tomlinson’s business. That’s why it has partnered with Algonquin College Corporate Training.

The joint effort blends the best of all worlds. Participants can take part in personal and career development opportunities with Learning Centre instructors on Tomlinson’s premises, or at Algonquin’s facilities. This includes the college’s new flagship Learning Centre downtown at 700 Sussex. Thanks to this partnership, several Tomlinson University courses result in college-level credits or certificates.

Insights to deliver tangible results

What makes it all work is Algonquin’s commitment to truly understand Tomlinson’s business objectives, the individual learning needs of its employees, and to constantly refine and adjust program structure and delivery in response to participant feedback. For example, given the nature of Tomlinson’s business, it is the winter months when most employees have the downtime to take part in continuing education.

“Algonquin assigns the same core group of trainers as much as possible, so they come to really understand our business and our people and use our language,” said Lewis. “They recognize the unique challenges of the environmental services and construction industries and work with our supervisors and foremen to address those.”

That emphasis on middle management and front-line workers, beyond just the executive ranks, is central to Algonquin’s pedagogical approach, said Doug Wotherspoon, Algonquin’s Executive Director of Business Development.

“If you don’t train at these other levels, broad concepts don’t get translated into tangible results and initiatives within the organization,” he said.

Learning Centre Master Facilitator and Trainer Sylvie Rimbach agrees.

“With every client engagement, our focus is on recognizing and customizing to the individual’s learning ability,” she said. “In the case of a client like Tomlinson, this extends to the needs of a manager in the office versus a field supervisor who may not have been in training for some time. Our goal is to make sure that the individual feels they have found value for being away from their job for the day and have learned something practical that they can immediately apply.”

This approach through Tomlinson U. and the Algonquin College Learning Centre applies to both technical courses as well as those increasingly important soft skills around leadership, team collaboration, creative thinking and problem solving.

“At Tomlinson, we regularly carry out employee engagement surveys and a top reason why our people stay with us is the ongoing learning and development that we provide,” Lewis said. 

Tomlinson’s partnership with Algonquin has been key to helping many employees understand what it takes to rise through the ranks.

“I have seen entry level field employees grow both personally and professionally, to rise from a general labour to a superintendent role, and it’s been due to the combination of our field training with Algonquin’s courses,” Lewis said.

‘It’s the whole experience’

“Life-long learning is becoming the norm and it’s not going to stop,” Rimbach added. “It’s becoming an expectation: Job seekers favour employers that invest in their professional development, while organizations are increasingly expecting their employees to take advantage of such opportunities.”

The value of this partnership to Tomlinson extends beyond continuing education. Algonquin is also an important source of new hires, co-op students and interns for Tomlinson through its regular certificate and diploma programs.

“I am a big believer in Algonquin and all that it offers,” Lewis said. “It’s the whole experience.”