DC plans $35 million expansion at Whitby campus

Peter Garrett, who works in the president's office at Durham, says enrolment numbers in the skilled trades programs at the college have been growing over the past 10 years. Photo credit: Kathryn Fraser

Durham College has put a $35 million plan in place to expand its Whitby campus.

The school announced its intentions to begin construction this September in a campus-wide email sent Tuesday.

It will take approximately two years to complete and the campus will be expanded by 60,000 square-feet.

We’ve seen a 130 per cent increase in the student population in Whitby in the past 10 years,” says Durham College president Don Lovisa in the email.

“We are extremely excited about the future of the Whitby campus and what this expansion means for DC, the broader community and skilled trades.”

Peter Garrett, the manager of strategic reporting and government relations at DC, says the college has reached out to both the federal and provincial governments to seek support in funding the project.

“It takes quite a bit of time to raise funds,” Garrett says.

Although the province pulled the plug in October on $217 million in funding for planned expansions of three schools in the GTA – a shared Ryerson University/Sheridan College campus in Brampton, a Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College site in Milton and a joint York University/Seneca College project in Markham and also removed funding for a French-language university in Toronto, Garrett has confidence Durham can still get provincial assistance.

“Given the importance of supporting training and education within the province and across the country, we are optimistic about receiving (government) support,” he says.

The Town of Whitby is donating $1 million over a five-year period but it’s not the first time the town has contributed to the college.

“I believe their past donation was another $1 million to the Centre for Food,” he says. “[The Town] has always been a great supporter of the Whitby campus. They’ve been very generous and they’re the first to sort of step up and support the expansion.”

Garrett says a third party company initially evaluated Whitby campus and made an assessment. Educational Consulting Services (ECS) made recommendations on how the college should approach its growth.

“The expansion would encompass more shop space, more classrooms and student space because there’s not really a lot at the Whitby campus,” Garrett says.

The expansion is set to specifically benefit student apprenticeship and industrial-skilled trades programs. DC hopes the expansion will double the college’s training capacity and space.

“Most of our trades’ programs receive more applications than seats,” Garrett says. “It’s not quite called a wait-list but [future students] are essentially wait-listed. If we increase the capacity for some [programs], then we could fill the seats and there’s demand from students and from industry.”

Garrett says student welders, electricians, millwrights, boilermakers, and mechanical technicians specializing in elevating devices will benefit from the expansion.

“Durham College right now is the only post-secondary institution in Canada with the mechanical technician – elevating devices program,” Garrett says.

“We’re actually recognized across the country as the post-secondary trainer for elevating device mechanics. So the demand for that program is huge.”

Garrett says the college hasn’t received much feedback from students and faculty yet but says the Whitby community has given a lot of support.

“The focus on skilled trades is something that people really like to see here because that’s what a lot of local businesses have in terms of opportunities,” Garrett says. “From the community’s perspective, people [are] incredibly on board.”