A new training complex at Northern College is bringing emergency services together.
Today, the school celebrated the official opening of its Integrated Emergency Services Complex, a nearly 40,000-square foot facility, at its campus in Porcupine.
Students in the pre-service firefighter, paramedic, paramedic bridging and police foundations programs have been using the $19.2 million facility since the school year started in September. It also is the new home for the Cochrane District EMS and Health Sciences North base hospital, and early next year, the Whitney Volunteer Fire Station will move in.
The complex also offers a mock courtroom, jail cell, interview and finger print rooms, scenario labs, an exterior intersection, and a simulation unit that is a system used by Homeland Security in the United States.
“It means that our police, fire and paramedic programs have state-of-the-art facilities. There is nothing else that could compare at an Ontario college,” said Northern College president Fred Gibbons.
“It’s more than just the post-secondary programs that are going to benefit from this, we want our facility to be used by the community professionals as well.”
For Gibbons, there were a lot of emotions — from pride and accomplishment, to relief — to finally be opening the complex.
“This has been an idea that’s been germinating and we finally got some traction in 2016 when the senior levels of government came through with some funding,” he said.
All levels of government have contributed, with the provincial and federal government each giving $5.5 million, and the City of Timmins $2 million. The college also received a $1.5 million Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.
Bringing the emergency services under one roof is another unique aspect of the facility.
“Normally in an academic environment, those three programs would train separately, and then when they get out into the field, they would be, by nature of the job, compelled to work alongside each other and get to know the diversity of their roles,” said Sarah Campbell, Dean of Health Sciences and Emergency Services, in a statement.
“Here, that’s going to happen when all of the students are actually studying in their academic programming and then when they graduate they’ll already have those critical thinking skills and inter-professional skills, so they’re more prepared for the field.”
Up until now, Gibbons said some of the college’s programs have had strong reputations for the caliber of teaching and curriculum.
“Where we let our students down was with inferior facilities, we’ve changed that today. We have facilities that are incomparable throughout the province, so I think as we begin to spread that word in our marketing and recruitment efforts we will be drawing more students to our programs here, both domestic students and international,” he said.
Having more students in the community, he said, brings a different dynamic.
“We need students for some of the part time work that needs to be filled, but it also results in additional economic activity as students do like to spend money when they’re away at school,” he said.
Take a look at what the facility looked like in April when TimminsToday took a tour here.