Starting in the fall of 2018, Algoma University will offer an engineering pathway allowing qualifying students to take their first year of studies in Sault Ste. Marie before transferring to Laurentian University in Sudbury.
Under a memorandum of understanding announced at tonight's meeting of Algoma U's board of governors, students will transfer seamlessly to second-year mechanical, chemical or mining engineering at Laurentian's Bharti School of Engineering.
Here in the Sault, first-year students will take courses such as math, physics or chemistry before transferring to Sudbury.
"It gives students an opportunity to stay home for a year and then transition to the Sudbury campus," said Dave Marasco, Algoma U's registrar, who spearheaded the initiative with Dawn White, manager of academic development and quality assurance.
"It provides a pathway that will hopefully retain students in the north," White told tonight's meeting. "Now, while they do have to travel to complete the degree, it's only three hours away."
"There is a real need in our community for engineers and we believe this partnership with Laurentian University will help to support students in our local communities who may be looking for an option to stay closer to home," said Algoma U. president Asima Vezina in a written statement.
Essar Steel Algoma Inc. has agreed to offer four one-year co-op placements for third-year Laurentian engineering students.
"A local student could then come back, work for a year, go back to Laurentian and complete the degree," White said. "That hopefully will result in not only youth staying here for school, but then staying here as qualified engineers.'
"It is our hope that many of them will return upon completion of their studies and have long and successful careers here in the Sault at Algoma," said Jim Rennie, the steel mill's vice president, human resources.
Dr. Markus Timusk, director of Bharti School of Engineering, said that enrolment at the Sudbury campus has grown from 100 students a decade ago to 700 students.
"We're happy that we have a new building that's in the last stages of completion. We expect to have occupancy this spring," Timusk said, speaking from Sudbury through a video link.
"This will be offering brand-new labs, facilities and student spaces which will be available to all of the students coming into the engineering program."
An information night for parents and students is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 19.
Local guidance counsellors and employers requiring engineers will also be invited.