By DEVON SMITH
Conestoga will replace rapid growth with ongoing improvements in the years to come.
By the beginning of the 2011 fall semester, Conestoga had completed its biggest expansion yet.
The single largest component was the new $91-million Cambridge campus, which is home to the School of Engineering Technology and Trades as well as the Institute of Food Processing Technology. But that was just one part of the major project that thrust Conestoga forward in the world of education.
On the Doon campus, a state-of-the-art health sciences building and an EMS building brought new life to medical programs. In addition, major renovations took place at the Waterloo campus, which opened its new roofing and HVAC centres, and a powerline training centre was opened in Ingersoll.
Conestoga president John Tibbits has been with the school for 25 years. Having helped grow the college for so long, he was very happy with the recent additions and improvements and what they signified for the school.
“I think it’s raised our profile in the community,” he said. “It’s offered a lot more opportunities for students. Our applications are way up compared to what they were five years ago. We’ve grown by about 50 per cent in the last five years.”
That kind of growth is rare in today’s economy, something Tibbits is well aware of.
“We won’t grow as quickly in the next three years as we have in the last three,” he said. “It’s not because there isn’t a demand, it’s that the government doesn’t have a ton of money. It will all be influenced by the strength of the economy … Most of our money comes from the government.”
Tibbits plans on being more cautious with the college’s growth over the next two or three years, which he said is probably not a bad thing.
“It puts a lot of strain on an organization when you grow very quickly,” he said.
That’s not to say that Conestoga is gearing up for a period of stagnation, however. On the contrary, though the school won’t be pouring money into construction projects right away, it has many other projects on the go.
A partnership with Wilfrid Laurier University, on their existing campus in Brantford, is well underway and won’t require any construction. Some programs are starting up there this September, and there will be several more available in the next couple of years.
On the University of Waterloo’s campus, Conestoga students will have the opportunity to take classes in a new long-term care facility that is being built and will open in 2014.
And though there isn’t any construction scheduled to start in the next couple of years, Tibbits expects approval for a new campus in Guelph within that time.
The college will also see new programs on its main campuses. In response to the federal government’s move toward expanding its prison network, the school will be adding a correctional services worker program. Tibbits also hopes to have a degree program in early childhood education available by September, 2013.
Tibbits expects the college to grow by 10 per cent by 2015, so there will be no lack of action at Conestoga over the next three years, and certainly no lack of opportunity.