Mazergroup has donated $500,000 to Assiniboine Community College’s Prairie Innovation Centre in an effort to grow the agricultural industry.
Mazergroup has been a long-standing supporter of ACC, said Derrick Turner, the director of advancement. The latest donation will help ensure the post-secondary school can help expand and innovate the agricultural sector.
“It’s nice to have somebody like Bob [Mazer, Mazergroup president] step up. It shows the importance of this type of project happening, not only in Brandon but for Manitoba as a whole,” Turner said. “He’s so connected to agriculture. It’s nice to have him validate that it’s important to have this type of expansion in the industry.”
The Prairie Innovation Centre will enable more unique work-integrated learning opportunities, applied research projects and industry innovations.
The centre is Assiniboine’s vision for the future of agriculture in Manitoba and will address industry and economic needs in the sector.
Securing skilled labour in the agricultural sector has been a growing challenge for many years, Turner said.
In Manitoba, it is estimated one in five jobs will go unfilled by 2025.
Turner noted the Canadian government is predicting one in three jobs in the agricultural sector will go unfilled by the year 2028 if more people are not attracted to the industry.
“What the Prairie Innovation Centre project is doing is taking the Assiniboine student-base of just over 300 students and then moving up to over 800 graduates once we get up to all the programs that are going to be in there,” Turner said.
“It’s a massive expansion.”
The Prairie Innovation Centre will be built at the North Hill ACC campus. It will be constructed on the eastern side of the campus in the Valley View Building.
Turner said the college will preserve what they can of the building while adding new shops, labs and teaching spaces.
Part of the expansion includes growing existing programs while producing new programs that are not currently present in Brandon or the prairies as a whole.
These programs include chemical technology and mechatronics.
“The innovative part is the unique labs that we’re going to have to have,” Turner said.
“For mechatronics, the program is all about robotics, so we’re going to have to have a robotics type of lab to train people, and different chemical labs also included in it.”
He added the centre will also include a large community piece called the Collaboration Zone that will serve as a large meeting space with an auditorium to bring industry on site so students and faculty can interact.
“I can’t think of another college that’s going to have this type of a feel. The building is incredible, but part of the campus uniqueness is the grounds itself,” Turner said.
Mazer has been connected to the college in various ways for many years — he is the past chair of the board of governors, holds an honorary ACC diploma, and is the honorary chair of the Prairie Innovation Centre.
Mazer said fostering a relationship with ACC and the Prairie Innovation Centre has been important for his company.
The majority of Mazergroup’s 375 staff have some link to the college, he noted.
The training undertaken at the school is “extremely” relevant to the ag industry and benefits the greater community, especially in rural Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
“They teach things that ultimately result in better lives for people and their families,” Mazer said, adding it’s important to continue growing the industry and ensuring skilled labourers can help agriculture in Canada thrive.
“Good businesses [are] not about products, location or anything — [they’re] about the people that serve your customers and the knowledge they can exercise to look after customers. It’s always about people,” Mazer said.
The agricultural industry and world are changing in terms of technology, he said, and the programs developed and supported at the Prairie Innovation Centre will be a welcomed addition to the agriculture industry.
“It’s extremely forward-looking, and it’s extremely timely. That’s why we felt it was appropriate to make a commitment ... to ACC.”
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun