Waterloo secures OVIN funding for outreach programs

Monday, July 10, 2023

The University of Waterloo has secured $345,000 from the Ontario government to run three outreach projects designed to connect the next generation of workers to the province’s growing automotive sector.

Delivered by the University’s Faculty of Engineering, these projects form part of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network’s (OVIN) Regional Future Workforce (RFW) program. The projects will engage young and underrepresented students from diverse backgrounds with activities focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and introduce them to potential career paths in the automotive industry.

“As we continue to grow Ontario’s auto supply chain, it’s important that we empower students and connect them with exciting opportunities in the sector,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, in a media release. “We’re attracting billions of dollars worth of investment from companies worldwide that will create thousands of new jobs.”

“Our region is home to a strong automotive sector and great institutions like the University of Waterloo,” said Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris. “These partnership projects will help a new generation learn about the job opportunities Ontario is creating after landing historic automotive sector investments.”

“I absolutely love seeing this type of investment from our government," said Jess Dixon, MPP Kitchener South, Hespeler. "Confidence and competence in STEM subjects are essential for tomorrow’s engineers and technologists but I know from my own experience that this type of confidence generally has to be instilled early and then nurtured in order for it to stick. A Grade 4 program is perfect and makes for a great example of government, industry, and academia working in tandem toward a common goal. Waterloo Region is an innovation leader and I'm so grateful to Toyota and the University of Waterloo for coming together with our government to make this happen.”

“This investment in the University of Waterloo speaks to our government’s commitment to job creation and a robust economy,” said Brian Riddell, MPP for Cambridge. “The outreach projects offered by the university will expose students to the many benefits that come with working in Ontario’s evolving automotive industry.”

The three Waterloo Engineering outreach projects to benefit from the funding were developed in consultation with industry partner Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada and include the Grade 4 Kids on Campus program, the Toyota Innovation Challenge and the Travelling STEM program.

The Grade 4 program, already underway, is bringing young students from over 100 schools to the Waterloo campus to participate in activities, workshops and tours designed to spark their interest in STEM, inspire them to see themselves as future technologists and ignite their curiosity about careers in the automotive sector. Crucially, this program will instill STEM-based confidence in young people who are historically underrepresented in such fields.

The Innovation Challenge will engage undergraduate women, Black and Indigenous engineering students by presenting them with relevant industry problems and encouraging them to develop solutions. Designed as an automotive technology ‘hackathon’, the event will take place in the Pearl Sullivan Engineering IDEAs Clinic, a unique experiential learning space that exposes all engineering students to hands-on activities that challenge them to think like engineers and act as cohesive teams while honing essential professional skills.

The Travelling STEM program will engage with young students in Ontario’s rural and northern communities. Waterloo Engineering’s ESQube, a mobile makerspace, will travel to these communities, enabling students to participate onsite in STEM activities aimed at encouraging their ongoing interest in pursuing STEM related studies and careers.

“Our programming aims to expose folks who are historically underrepresented in STEM fields, particularly girls as well as Black and Indigenous youth, to our vibrant engineering community,” said Mary Robinson, Waterloo Engineering’s associate dean of outreach, equity and diversity. “This includes introducing them to career pathways in the automotive as well as the broader transportation sector.”

“Careers in Ontario’s auto sector offer life-changing opportunities, with good pay, pensions and benefits,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “Our government will continue to invest in innovative projects that help workers and jobseekers get the skills they need to land better jobs with bigger paycheques in the auto industry.”

“Ontario has emerged on the global stage as the jurisdiction that will usher in the future of the automotive sector as it transitions through electrification, connectivity, autonomy and mobility solutions," said Raed Kadri, Head of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network, Ontario Centre of Innovation. "The Regional Future Workforce program is another example of Ontario’s commitment to ensuring that we have a highly-skilled and diverse workforce across the province to power this industry for years to come.”

"OCI is grateful for the support from the Government of Ontario,” said Claudia Krywiak President and CEO, Ontario Centre of Innovation. “The three core elements that make the Regional Future Workforce program stand out are its regional reach, the inclusion of equity-deserving groups, and the reach across multiple audience segments."