Skilled trades instructors are remotely visiting Hamilton elementary classrooms to teach hands-on skills

The Inspiring Young Minds Skilled Trades Project, an innovative partnership between the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and Mohawk College has three skilled trades instructors teaching hands-on skills to elementary school students, even if has to be remote right now. 

The program was supposed to happen through in-person visits to Mohawk shops, but COVID-19 closures have temporarily derailed that plan. 

But with the idea to showcase welding, millwright and automotive mechanics, the plan shifted to having the instructors from the Marshall School of Skilled Trades & Apprenticeship join the Grade 6 to 8 classrooms remotely.

The instructors show job postings in the area and the kids “light up” when they hear the earning potential in welding

Justin Decosemo

The professors explain their trades, share their own career journeys and the opportunities that exist in their fields, and guide the students through activities with learning outcomes tied to their curriculum. 

Millwright professor John Legree takes students through building and using simple hydraulic lifts. They have to do math calculations of cylinder volume and displacement to figure out performance of the lift. 

Automotive Service Technician professor Dave Currie teaches the basic components of a car and then students put together an electric car. The kids tweak them to make them faster. 

Then they race them down the hall. 

Remote demonstrations are more challenging for Welding instructor Justin Decosemo but he leads students through explorations of the effect of heat on different metals and shows how to bend metal, cut with fuel torches, and burn chromium out of stainless steel. 

The elementary schools use Mohawk’s portable virtual reality welding simulators to augment the hands-on learning. 

Students always have questions about jobs in their fields, usually led by: How much do you make? 

The instructors show job postings in the area and the kids “light up” when they hear the earning potential in welding, says Decosemo. 

The three professors say they hope they can open some eyes to the vast opportunities in skilled trades, including stable, high-paying jobs, the ability to travel, and the chance to combine technical skills with entrepreneurship. 

Image – Justin Decosemo, Welding Professor; Dave Currie, Automotive Service Technician Professor; John Legree, Millwright Professor

Students struggling financially because of the pandemic have found Mohawk College is there for them when they need it most.

The Mohawk College Foundation and Mohawk International have found innovative ways to help students in need during this pandemic crisis.

In addition to supplying ad hoc emergency support funds, the Foundation developed a gift catalogue in 2019 that allows donors to provide practical gifts to students in need. Donors can fill a fridge for $100, contribute to utilities for $50, or pay into a travel fund to get students home for $75. The gift catalogue also includes textbooks, medical and dental insurance, and school supplies, such as lab safety glasses, specialized calculators, or skilled trades tools.

The catalogue was a lifeline and provided direct financial support to students, particularly international students who were stranded in Canada by the pandemic, says Katie Burrows, Director, Development.

The unique and pressing needs being faced by Mohawk International students as a result of the pandemic...

“We tried to meet the most tangible needs of students. It’s a way for donors to support students by donating small amounts, much like crowdsourcing.”

Burrows says she’s not aware of another college with such a catalogue, an initiative that won an award from the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education this year.

“We didn’t set these programs up for COVID-19, but they have made such a difference to students and that showed we were focused on the right things. It was very heartening to learn we could help,” said Burrows.

At the end of April, Mohawk International launched Helping Hampers, an initiative that began with friends and family donating food to help students from abroad. the program expanded, eventually delivery close to 100 baskets filled with food, gift cards, and personal care items to students stuck far from home or in quarantine.

Phase 2 of the program is possible thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Hamilton Community Foundation (HCF) to support International students with food insecurity issues.

The HCF grant recognizes “the unique and pressing needs being faced by Mohawk International students as a result of the pandemic,” said Sharon Charters, Manager of Grants at HCF. “We were particularly impressed with the significant role of the students themselves and the openness to work with community partners.”

Javier Rumie and his wife Sandra Velasquez and their two children (pictured) arrived from Bogota, Colombia in December.

“The pandemic changed our plans, like everyone around the world,” said Rumie, who came to Mohawk to pursue a Global Business Management graduate certificate.

When COVID-19 hit, Velasquez couldn’t find a job and the couple’s savings were depleted by the pandemic’s toll on the peso.

Helping Hampers pitched in with two deliveries of food, shampoo, soap and toothpaste, along with a grocery store gift card. The children, 9 and 6, got gifts, including stuffed animals dressed in Mohawk jerseys.

The family never expected to get that kind of help from a college, says Velasquez.

“It’s so great to know someone is out there who cares that you can call in an emergency.”

International Student Emergency Relief Fund

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Image: Javier Rumie, Sandra Valaquez and family in Hamilton, Ontario

Since 2015, Mohawk College has hosted five Partnership Dinner events with prominent community and industry partners, including The Hamilton Community Foundation, McKeil Marine, Six Nations Polytechnic, Hamilton Health Sciences, St. Joseph’s Health System, Joseph Brant Hospital, and City School by Mohawk.

The dinners are Mohawk’s way of thanking, celebrating and showcasing the amazing partners that help to make Mohawk a great place to learn and our community an even better place to live. In total, these events have raised more than $295,000 that has directly benefited the Hamilton community by helping to do things such as removing barriers to postsecondary education and expanding access to important programs and services.

Past Partners:

Hamilton Community Foundation logo
McKeil Marine logo
Six Nations Polytechnic logo
Hamilton-Health-Sciences-St Joseph's Health System and Joseph Brant Hospital logos
City School by Mohawk logo

School of Health Sciences professor Christy Taberner has long been an advocate of digital learning and the value it can bring to students. Christy uses technology to inspire and engage students in their learning, which has been especially challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Check out the video to see how Christy is using technology to engage her students in their learning.

Lindsay Richardson is a Math professor with the Marshall School of Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship at Mohawk College.

Lindsay started her popular Math Minutes video series to help tutors provide answers to some common question’s students had about the math they were learning in class. The series has become very popular among faculty and students, especially during the pandemic, and has grown to include collaborations with other faculty.

Check out the video to see how Lindsay is helping students conquer math problems virtually.

Image: Lindsay Richardson

Mohawk College offers many opportunities for students to get hands-on experiential learning while partnering with organizations and companies in our community.  Fourth semester students in the Broadcasting – Television & Communications Media program’s Advanced Single Camera course, work in small groups to produce promotional and social media videos for clients that come to the college through “The Agency”, an experiential learning space that is part of the McKeil School of Business at Mohawk College. The students work directly with the clients to develop a concept and production plan, and then film and edit the videos using a variety of camera equipment and software. Check out the video to see some of the recent work our students did for these community partners.

Check out the video to see some recent work our students have done with the community.

As Thrive Group has grown, diversified and expanded its services over the past eight years, so has the regional healthcare provider’s partnership with Mohawk College.

Since 2013, Thrive Group has been offering support and care for people in community care, so they can live as independently as possible. It started with consolidated administrative support to two local community healthcare providers. Today, Thrive Group operates four regional organizations and supports administrative support for a dozen more.

The Thrive Group-Mohawk College has been nurtured by a common goal to train and sustain a skilled workforce for tomorrow’s healthcare sector. You can find Mohawk graduates working as nurses, practical nurses and PSWs in several Thrive Group locations – more than 100 Mohawk graduates are in their employ. 

The uncertain times of the pandemic has reinforced the value of strong partnership.

What may have started with an eye to workforce training, has become a multi-faceted relationship. Thrive supports many Mohawk co-op and student placements every year and supports student success through an annual scholarship. Thrive team leaders contribute to the Program Advisory Committees in the allied health programs. They are also partners in professional development delivery through Mohawk College Enterprise.

In 2019, Thrive Group and City School by Mohawk College partnered to develop a customized training program, Careers in Community and Long Term Care, to promote in-demand and viable career opportunities with Thrive. 

Then, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the partners rapidly responded to an acute shortage of workers in the community and long-term care sectors. Through a focused ad campaign and participation in a government-funded rapid skills training program, the two organizations are working together to fill a workforce gap in the community healthcare.

The uncertain times of the pandemic has reinforced the value of strong partnerships. And, in this case, the pandemic has fortified the partnership between Mohawk College and Thrive Group even more.

Kyle Sieber credits Mohawk with giving him the confidence to rise from a General Labourer to a Plant Manager at Walters Inc. within a decade

His time at Mohawk College, Kyle Sieber gained the confidence to challenge himself and to rise from a General Labourer to Plant Manager in just 10 years at steel fabrication and construction company, Walters Inc. He completed a three-year metal fabricating apprenticeship at night school while working at Walters full time. 

As a welder, Sieber had the opportunity to work on large projects including the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg and the Brookfield Place Entry Pavilion in New York City. 

When Sieber became a fitter at Walters, the more he got into it, the more he challenged himself each and every day on complex pieces. His Plant Manager took notice and saw something in him. His involvement on two bridge projects in 2017 changed the trajectory of his career. He played a key role in the steel fabrication of the dramatic new Toronto Eaton Centre Pedestrian Bridge and was then tasked with leading the building of massive and complex truss elements for the arched Burgoyne Bridge in St. Catharines. 

“I was organizing the work, taking care of all the materials coming in and handling the flow through the shop. Walters gave me the lead fitter role opportunity on the project, so I took and ran with it and never looked back,” says Sieber. 

From there, Sieber progressed from Team Leader to Plant Supervisor to Plant Manager in a very short time. He credits Mohawk for giving him the skills and knowledge to feel confident in challenging himself.

Mohawk students come to Walters armed with the technical and soft skills that will serve them well throughout their careers

“Sieber is among at least 40 Mohawk graduates at Walters,” says Natalia Strelbytsky, Vice President, People and Culture. “The college is a critical pipeline for skilled talent in many areas at Walters, including production, detailing, project management and administration.” 

“The college recently recognized Walters in its Future Ready Premium Partnership campaign. Mohawk students come to Walters armed with the technical and soft skills that will serve them well throughout their careers,” Strelbytsky said. “The college prepares students for a work environment where they will need to continue to learn.” 

The Walters-Mohawk partnership includes a Joint Venture Mechanical Techniques Welding program where students come to Walters Stoney Creek plant one day a week for paid, hands-on instruction from senior welders. Walters hires many of the graduates from the program. 

Sieber would often watch the students work and offer tricks or hints. “It was nice seeing the future and remembering that I was there not too long ago. It shows if you really put your head down and put your mind to it, you can become whatever you want,” says Sieber.

Image – Kyle Sieber, Plant Manager, Walters Inc.

International medical insurance provider has been a ”lifeline” for Mohawk students from abroad hard-hit by the pandemic.

A gift from Mohawk College’s international medical insurance provider has helped students from abroad weather the pandemic a little easier. 

Markham-based donated $750,000 to Mohawk in 2018 to be used for scholarships and emergency funds. No one knew then how critical that gift would be over the last year. 

“They really are fantastic. They care so much about students,” said Katie Burrows, the college’s director of development. 

When the pandemic hit, many international students found themselves in financial difficulties because they lost their jobs, had their hours cut, or couldn’t rely on support from family at home. They also didn’t qualify for any government support in Canada and many couldn’t return home.

It’s like you imagine that you are falling from some cliff and then the scholarship is like a hand that catches you and says, ‘I’ve got you. I support you.

Yi-Lun Tsai

Thanks to the gift, the college’s International team was able to increase emergency aid funding and “that was a huge lifeline to a lot of international students at the time,” says Burrows. 

“Helping people come to Canada and experience the benefits of a Canadian education is something we take immense pleasure in being able to do,” said Keith Segal, President and CEO of 

“Humanity is integral to our outlook as a company, and we always see the real people behind our insurance policies, and recognize that their needs change as life changes.” 

Being awarded a scholarship eased Yi-Lun Tsai’s worries and allowed her to focus on her studies in Office Administration-Legal. 

She says she dreamed as a little girl learning English in Taiwan to come to Canada to study. It is an expensive proposition though, with students from abroad paying several times as much in tuition as domestic students. 

The pandemic nixed her plan to get a job last summer and she also had to invest in better internet to handle her online classes. 

The scholarship has inspired her to give back herself and made her feel confident about her choice to come to Mohawk. She says she no longer feels alone, even as she desperately misses her family back home. 

“You sacrifice a lot to come to Canada to study but then you start to doubt yourself, like: Can I do it? Is it worth it?” she said. 

“It’s like you imagine that you are falling from some cliff and then the scholarship is like a hand that catches you and says, ‘I’ve got you. I support you.’”

Image: Yi-Lun Tsai, International Mohawk student

International Student Emergency Relief Fund

Make your gift today and provide essential, emergency resources to International students.

Women in Technology and Trades and Techsploration are working together to boost female participation in in-demand fields

Helping girls and women find their way to careers in technology and trades is the mission of Mohawk College’s Women in Technology and Trades network (WiTT) and that effort is being accelerated by a partnership with Techsploration. 

Based in Nova Scotia, Techsploration has been promoting science, engineering, trades and technology career paths to girls and women for more than 20 years. 

“We have a fairly intensive four-phase program model that targets young women in grades nine through 12,” said Emily Boucher, Techsploration’s Interim Executive Director. 

“The aim of our program is really to encourage career exploration in these fields where women are significantly under-represented in in-demand fields. We do this through hands on mentor-led programming.” 

When the organization set its sights on expanding beyond Nova Scotia, Mohawk College’s strength in the skilled trades and technology made it the perfect partner, says Boucher. 

She said the partners perfectly complement one another: Techsploration builds career awareness and Mohawk is the pathway to gain the skills, knowledge and experience to land a job in the field. 

WiTT provides the deep connections to industry that opens doors to Mohawk graduates, along with mentoring and coaching for young women. 

“Through the partnership between Techsploration and Mohawk we are together committed to really introducing people to careers they might not have thought of,” said Rebecca Isowa, Program Manager, Technology & Trades, Continuing Education and a co-chair of WiTT. 

“This is just one more way of making that introduction possible.” 

That’s what we’re pushing for, we want it to become a socially normal thing for women to consider all of the jobs in trades and technology

Working with Techsploration allows Mohawk to leverage its own programming and mentorship network, says Elizabeth Martin, Associate Dean of Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology. 

Along with opening pathways into well-paying and secure careers, WiTT is working at filling a skills gap that is only growing more acute. 

“We need to look at novel ways to help expand the number of people who are aware of these great jobs that are available.” 

COVID-19 forced WiTT and Techsploration to pivot planned in-person events into virtual offerings. On March 8, 2021, Techsploration launched Techsploration Career Quest, an online event sponsored by Mohawk College and Shopify. The one-day session, on International Women’s Day, introduced 122 girls from Ontario high schools to 16 mentors from careers in technology and trades. The group participated in unique workshops Coding, Gummy Bear DNA and My First Motor Build and ended the day virtually collaborating on presentations that addressed “How to encourage more girls and women into technology and trades fields.” 

The event was a huge success, however sometimes showcasing technology and skilled trades in a two-dimensional format can be a challenge, says Boucher. 

Mohawk’s expertise in virtual reality and augmented reality has stepped up to deliver an on-site experience. 

“We’ve been working with the fabulous Mohawk College team on developing a virtual reality component to our programming. This is entirely new for us and we are incredibly excited. It has completely changed our traditional model.” 

Through virtual and augmented reality, students will be able to use their cellphones to go to work with mentors. That’s a “game.changer,” said Boucher. 

The mentorship and guidance of women working in these fields is still at the heart of the program, says Martin, but digital allows a level of engagement that can reach more people. 

“We’re not aware of any other model like this that exists right now. We are creating this collaborative AVR approach to help students be exposed to industry and help industry provide mentorship directly to young women.” 

Mohawk’s WiTT, which formed as a cross-College commitment in 2018, also collaborates with other ecosystem community organizations including the YWCA Hamilton to bring skilled trades and technology awareness to clients needing retraining. 

RBC has invested a three-year grant into WiTT to support its programming and initiatives, along with scholarships and bursaries. 

WiTT’s work also includes symposiums and in-demand technology presentations from female faculty who share their experience and expertise. The more women who find their way to trades and tech jobs, the more women will feel welcome in them, says Martin. 

“That’s what we’re pushing for, we want it to become a socially normal thing for women to consider all of the jobs in trades and technology,” she said. “So this is really opening new doors and new ways of thinking.”

In the Photo: Elizabeth Martin, Associate Dean, Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology; Rebecca Isowa, Program Manager, Technology & Trades, Continuing Education

Women in Technology and Trades Scholarship

Make your gift today to provide opportunities for women in technology and trades.