Both the University of Windsor and St. Clair College will be key players when it comes to building the talent pipeline required to feed the future needs of the Stellantis-LG electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor, Ont.
The $5.1-billion facility will employ 2,500 people in a variety of jobs from skilled trades to robotic engineering, according to UWindsor engineering professor Peter Frise, who’s also the director at the Center for Automotive Research and Education.
It’s expected thousands of other spin-off jobs will soon follow when other investments in the supply chain begin forming around the battery plant.
Frize says work is already well underway to ensure students who graduate from these institutions will have the skillsets to land these positions.
It’s also a key component in the City of Windsor’s economic development roadmap, ‘Windsor Works.’
That report, passed unanimously by Windsor council in 2021, lists about 40 main recommendations under the “LIFT” strategy: location, infrastructure, future economy and talent.
Now that Windsor has landed a battery manufacturing plant, Windsor’s mayor says the next logical step is ensuring the college and university are moving in lock-step with future job demands.
“The next key feature of Windsor Works and the next angle of focus is really building the ecosystem with the college and the university to make sure we have a strong supply, a strong talent pipeline that can help feed the battery factory,” says Drew Dilkens .
The University of Windsor already boasts programs and research in the electric vehicle and battery space, but Frise expects more program development in the coming years, in collaboration with Stellantis and LG to ensure their offerings will suit the needs of the companies.
“I can tell you the engineering faculty is just in the process of revamping our automotive engineering program to focus on electric vehicles and connected vehicles,” he says.
Frize says graduates with expertise in areas such as the sciences, IT, business, logistics, human kinetics and law will see opportunities and those faculties will need to take a look at their course offerings.
“We have some of the top electric vehicles people, one of the best electric motor and controller design people in the world is right here at the University of Windsor,” Frize says, noting Windsor didn’t land the investment by chance.
“This is just not the kind of work you can do in a place that doesn’t have those kinds of people. And we do,” he added.
St. Clair College had also been looking ahead long before the recent battery plant announcement.
“We saw the tea leaves, we knew battery was the future,” says Peter Wawrow, the director of research and development at the college.
He says the institution began looking at EV battery opportunities about a year ago — and is currently in the learning phase — working toward developing future curriculum needs on short order.
“We’re looking at helping and supporting industry and obviously giving our students an opportunity to get some experiential learning in the process,” Wawrow says.
The recent addition of an automobility hub at the college will also provide research and development opportunities for product testing, further preparing students for the future economy.
“We’ve really been going at it a little bit harder over the last year,” he says. “Definitely over the last few weeks, with the announcement and everything, we’re going full force.”