From assistance to real jobs: Mohawk launches Challenge 2025 workforce training program

Mohawk College announced today the launch of the Challenge 2025 workforce training program, that aims to support 3,000 people in the transition from income support programs to meaningful employment. In addition to training 3,000 workers, the program has set as its task to::

• Partner with 100 regional employers to deliver rapid, demand-led training that closes workforce gaps; providing employers skilled workers to support their resource needs, with a region-wide reduction in the skills gap.

• Build a pathway to college for 4,000 participants (3,000 City of Hamilton trainees + 1,000 students); providing participants with reduced material and non-material barriers to education and employment.

• Partner with other community colleges across Canada to test the City School by Mohawk model

At the core of Challenge 2025 are the goals of making a college education more accessible for people, retraining unemployed workers for meaningful employment, and helping regional employers address unfilled jobs in their workforces.

The program was first announced by Mohawk College President and CEO Ron McKerlie in May 2019. Initially, the college struck a taskforce with key partners and community leaders from the corporate, community, education, healthcare and municipal sectors, led by McKerlie and Bill Young, President of Social Capital Partners. The taskforce completed its work in August 2020, providing Challenge 2025 with a vision, guiding principles, core strategies and strategic priorities. Based on that guidance, a number of ambitious goals have been established for the program.

“We are grateful for the leadership and support we received from the members of the taskforce,” said McKerlie. “Their vision, guidance and passion for this initiative has ensured that Challenge 2025 is on the right track. We have the model to help people gain the education and skills they need to secure lasting, meaningful work and to help employers address challenging skills gaps in their workforces. Working with strong community and industry partners, I am convinced we can support lasting, generational change for families in Hamilton communities and across Canada.”

“I am eager to see Challenge 2025 grow and expand,” said Young. “City School is an excellent example of what a successful demand-led initiative looks like and Challenge 2025 offers the necessary supports and resources to expand to a much greater, even national, level. With employers at the table, articulating their needs, and people seeking meaningful new employment opportunities, this model can quickly be adopted to pandemic recovery, as well. Challenge 2025 can transform people’s lives and build stronger communities.”

In support of Challenge 2025, Mohawk College’s next steps include:

• Establishing a Rapid Skills Training Centre; a Hamilton-based training location for delivery of Challenge 2025 associated programs

• Running the first pilot project, focused on the supply chain sector; training 144 people who receive Ontario Works social assistance, as well as newcomers and youth. (funded by a Future Skills Centre grant)

• Formalizing employer partnerships in targeted sectors; focusing the pilot projects, co-developing curriculum and pathways required for participant success

• Expanding to other regions of Canada; engaging with post-secondary institutions across Canada to provide greater scope for the pilot courses

The Challenge 2025 model is based largely on the success of the City School by Mohawk program, which has delivered access to post-secondary education for the past five years through community-based classrooms and mobile classrooms at the neighbourhood level. The model is being strengthened with additional supports from community and industry partners. Challenge 2025 is being developed and administered by Mohawk College employees, with oversight by a stewardship committee of community representatives.

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