The Mohawk College mobile classroom is on a roll.
The 53-foot custom built trailer has been motoring around the city for a year, offering tuition-free courses in a bid to break down barriers to education.
“It’s really about mitigating the pernicious impacts of poverty,” said Jim Vanderveken, the college’s dean of community partnership and experiential learning.
Mohawk College is the only post-secondary education institute in Canada taking this approach.
Early indications are that it’s working, with nearly 100 individuals enrolling in courses in the first 12 months.
Some participants, he says, start off apprehensive.
“But after two weeks, they are very, very confident, they have a high level of self-esteem and they are able to then think seriously about what their next steps look like,” he said.
Some members of the community may not have considered post-secondary education as an option before, Vanderveken explains.
The mobile classroom has been working to change that.
It offers a number of courses, many focused on providing hands-on learning in the trades. Construction and welding are among the offerings.
Vanderveken says in the first year, the course completion rate was nearly 84 per cent.
Approximately 15 per cent of students have gone on to enroll in courses on campus while others have found employers interested in their skills.
“The majority of them are pursuing post-secondary education and that could mean apprenticeship training.”
Some students from the mobile classroom, he says, are in the continuing education stream. Others are working at improving math and English skills through an academic upgrading program that helps students work towards a full-time program.
The mobile classroom has primarily focused on serving the Crown Point and Beasley neighbourhoods in Hamilton over the last year.
Vanderveken says the college is hearing that the need extends well beyond those locations. “A second unit could be one of the serious options we’re looking at.”
Women in the Trades
Vanderveken says the college is also evaluating first-year data to see who was taking what courses so that they can cater to the community.
One of the interesting and unexpected findings, according to Vanderveken, is that one in four participants were women. He calls it an encouraging outcome.
“The trades and apprenticeship pathways offer very viable, high paying jobs. If we could get more women involved, then we could probably address some of the challenges employers are faced with right now in terms of bringing new talent on board to replace the baby boomers.”