Centennial College will receive up to $26 million from the Ontario government to relocate its aviation programs to the former de Havilland aircraft manufacturing centre at Downsview Park. The welcome news was announced Tuesday, October 29 by Premier Kathleen Wynne during a tour of the Ashtonbee Campus aircraft hangar, along with President Ann Buller, Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance.
The investment is seen as the first step towards creating an aerospace training and research hub for the development of new technologies in Ontario. The former de Havilland plant will be renovated to provide new classroom, workshop and hangar space, and will house an innovation and research working group that brings together industry leaders and academic partners, including University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, Ryerson University, York University, Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Honeywell, UTC Aerospace Systems, MDA Corporation and Sumitomo Precision Products Canada Aircraft, Inc.
Centennial currently trains more than 300 aircraft technicians and avionics technicians annually. The move to Downsview, which is anticipated to take place by September 2015, will provide a much larger teaching space with access to working runways. Enrolment is expected to grow to more than 900 students, as the programs’ graduates are in demand in Canada and around the world. The College will be working with the Ashtonbee Campus community to determine what will end up in the hangar.
In his 2012 review of the Canadian aerospace industry, the Hon. David Emerson identified a need for an aerospace training and research hub in Ontario to maintain Canada’s fifth-place ranking in the industry. Globalization, competition from emerging economies and a diminishing skilled workforce are looming challenges. There are also opportunities: some $3.2 trillion in new commercial aircraft and $661 billion in business aircraft will be ordered over the next 20 years worldwide as operators look for more efficient and environmentally sustainable aircraft to update their fleets.
The Downsview Aerospace Cluster for Innovation and Research (DAIR), which involves Ontario’s best educational institutions and aerospace technology leaders, has an ambitious plan to recast the former military airbase as a global aerospace hub that would function as an innovation incubator and attract new investment. Already, Bombardier has selected Centennial College as its trainer of choice, helping to prepare its existing and future workforce with new skills required in the assembly and maintenance of its aircraft.