As Ray Ivany drove into Pictou County on Nov. 30, he thought of 2003.
In the history of the Nova Scotia Community College that year marked a turning point that he believes has reshaped the face of not only education, but also the economy in Nova Scotia.
Ivany was a guest at NSCC Pictou Campus in Stellarton where his longtime friend John Hamm was honoured by having the new Trades and Innovation Centre at the campus named after him. In Pictou County, Hamm is a prominent political figure, having served as the MLA for Pictou Centre from 1993-2006, and as premier of Nova Scotia from 1996-2006.
But what led to the Friday announcement was the role he played along with Ivany, who in 2003 was president of the NSCC, in having $123 million invested into the community college.
“To me it was more than an investment in a college, rather an investment in our province’s future – an investment to help with dealing with an increasingly competitive, diversified world,” Hamm said Friday.
Reflecting back on that investment, Ivany recalled how at the time unemployment numbers were relatively high and yet there was a skilled labour shortage in the province.
“The reason for that frankly was we had an underdeveloped college system,” Ivany said. “When the economy said we need these people, they weren’t there.”
Both Hamm and Ivany concluded it needed the investment from the provincial government to create a transformation that would bring the NSCC in line with other community colleges in the country.
Thankfully, Ivany said, that investment was made under Hamm’s leadership and there was the transformation they had predicted. Driving into Stellarton Ivany could see it at a campus that has grown in size and numbers and now offers more programs than ever before.
“It’s a pretty remarkable change.”
Speaking at the event, Hamm said he was honoured to have his name attached to the community college.
“A college diploma is more than a piece of paper,” he said. “It’s the key to a better and more productive life. College teaches you how to do things. Innovation leads to how can we do them better. College training leads to better skills allowing transition to more complex activities. The Pictou campus is an integral part of building an economy that will be a future for rural Nova Scotia.”
Ivany is sure that, without the 2003 investment, that wouldn’t be the case.
“I think we would have seen a continuation of having economic opportunity and not having the people to take advantage of that opportunity,” he said.
There was a large crowd at the Stellarton campus for the official opening of The Hon. Dr. John F. Hamm Trades & Innovation Centre which was first used by students in 2017. The centre provides the campus with a specialized training space for students enrolled in carpentry, cabinetry, motor vehicle repair and heavy duty equipment programs. The new centre also provides a modern, high performance shop space. Envisioned as an innovation hub, the 28,000 square foot building features specialized training space that will motivate cross-collaboration amongst skilled-trades students.
It is anticipated that, in addition to helping instill industry-ready skills, the new facility will boost entrepreneurship activity in the area by serving as a specialized trades and applied research space for the broader community.
Construction of the Dr. John F. Hamm Trades & Innovation Centre was initiated through a $15.2 million investment, $6.9 million from the federal government and $8.3 from the provincial government announced in 2016. The funds were directed through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) — a federal-provincial partnership that funds modernization and sustainability improvements at post-secondary-based research facilities.
“This multi-million project created more than 100 good paying jobs during the construction of a new world class learning environment," said Central Nova MP Sean Fraser who spoke at the event. “More importantly, the students who walk these halls today will move into good paying and high demand jobs. Our shared vision is a more skilled workforce who can stay and work right here in Pictou County.”
NSCC President Don Bureaux also spoke at the event.
"We hope that students who study in this new facility are encouraged by Dr. Hamm’s vision for Nova Scotia and are inspired by his conviction in the unlimited power of education.”