With an electric vehicle ecosystem taking shape in and around Kingston, officials are knocking their heads together to determine the skills that will be needed by the growing industry.
Those skills are not yet fully understood, says John Conrad, director of innovation and business engagement with St. Lawrence College, Kingston.
“We’re currently trying to secure some provincial funding so that we can actually start doing some better, deeper needs analysis on what sort of jobs will be required for the industry as companies start building here in Eastern Ontario,” says Conrad.
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That analysis will look at everything from skills gaps to infrastructure and consider how academia can support the burgeoning industry’s needs.
“It’s very early days and we’re working with a variety of other academic, industrial and government partners and still trying to establish a sense of what skills the EV industry may need and then locally work towards ensuring there’s alignment with the many strengths of Queen’s (University) engineering and St. Lawrence College,” says David Yokom, director of innovative educational initiatives with Queen’s.
It’s a multi-faceted initiative that will take time, money and collaboration to fully develop, officials agree. A consortium has been set up with Kingston Economic Development taking the lead to coordinate the industrial outreach and partnerships; St. Lawrence College leveraging its significant expertise in re-skilling, up-skilling and skills transfer in targeted areas; and Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science focusing on higher education skills requirements, explains Yokom.
“Queen’s engineering is reimagining engineering education and this partnership illustrates some of our guiding principles: impactful research, experiential learning and partnerships with industry, government and other academic institutions,” says dean Kevin Deluzio.
“Governments … they haven’t had to, in the past, create an industry. We’re building a new industry around batteries and battery technology. Some of those skills are transferable, but it’s new work, a new industry and a new sector. That’s new for the government as well,” says Conrad, adding, “It’s probably been decades since we’ve had to build a new industry at this scale and at this speed.”
Canada already has programs at many institutions that qualify student entry into the industry without too much up-skilling required, he says.
“We have energy systems engineering students, so they have a broad understanding of energy and energy use and energy monitoring and could work in that industry,” says Conrad, adding that there is a gap on the chemistry side of battery manufacturing.
Queen’s has the Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining, with expertise in materials sourcing, processing and recycling, as well as in various advanced materials such as the rare earth metals used in the EV industry.
In an analysis of the competitiveness of Canadian climate policy, including the EV industry, TD Economics points out that Canada’s estimated $139 billion in total spending since the federal budget in 2021, which is the equivalent of five per cent of Canada’s nominal GDP, compares favourably with the U.S. spending of approximately US$393 billion, or 1.5 per cent of its nominal GDP.
“Going forward, Canada’s competitiveness will be dependent on maintaining this investment momentum, but also in the development of lesser-touched areas, such as skills development and expediting project assessments,” says Francis Fong, managing director and senior economist with TD Canada, in the report.