Partnership supports next generation of machinists

Published on November 18, 2019

Sandvik Cormant helps students build problem-solving skills

The opportunity to learn hands on to build problem-solving skills was what first drew Stephen Jackal to the machinist trade. But, thinking back, says the second-year Machinist apprentice, his interest in practicing these skills goes back to childhood.

As a kid, Jackal (pictured below) says he enjoyed solving metal puzzles – brainteasers that involved untangling metal shapes

“You had to manipulate things in a certain way,” he says. “There was a trick to it but there was also this element of working with your hands and understanding how it works instead of just doing it.”

Machinist student Stephen Jackal at the podium presenting a speech at the Sandvik Coromant Award dinner.Before coming to NAIT, Jackal spent several years teaching English in Japan. During a field trip with his high school students, he first learned about the machinist trade. He was fascinated to hear about the skills machinist learn and the job opportunities available in industry.

After returning to Canada, he shifted gears by taking on a position with a welding and steel fabricators shop. It was there that his interest in the trade grew.

“I enjoy working with my hands, but there’s an element of thinking and precision is really the driver behind what interests me the most,” Jackal says.

In the steel shop, he tried his hand at G-code programming  – a numerical control programming language. He taught himself basic coding for the plasma table that was in the shop and became instantly hooked. He wanted to advance his skills, so he enrolled in NAIT’s Machinist apprenticeship program in 2018.

Since 2008, 102 NAIT Machinist students recieved the Sandvik Coromant Awards.

The more Jackal learned during his first year in the program, the more determined he became to excel. He spent upward of 40 hours outside the classroom to push himself to learning the theory and the hands-on aspect of the curriculum.  

After completing his first year of study, Jackal’s hard work paid off. He received the Sandvik Coromant Award for his academic performance. This year, 12 students received the Sandvik Coromant Awards recognizing their academic performance and leadership, bringing the total of students supported to 102 since 2008.  

Sandvik Coromant partnership supports growth of machinist education

For more than a decade, Sandvik Coromant has partnered with NAIT to invest in training and promote the trade as a viable career path for the next generation. The company has supported advanced learning opportunities through scholarships, new equipment and funding for classroom and labs within the Sandvik Coromant Centre for Machinist Technology.

Sandvik Coromant’s Jim Cordoviz, Annika Langéen and David Andrews with NAIT President & CEO Dr. Glenn FelthamInvesting in machinist education at polytechnics like NAIT is part of sustaining the machinist and manufacturing industry long into the future, says the company’s vice-president of marketing Annika Langéen (pictured second from left).

Industry forecasts a shortage of skilled machinists trained to use advanced technology and address an already steadily climbing skills gap to fill vacant positions due to retirement or attrition. In fact, according to the Business Development Bank of Canada, 56% of respondents surveyed in the manufacturing sector reported the highest level of difficulty in recruiting skilled talent.

Langéen says the company is already reaping the benefits of the partnership by attracting bright students like Jackal to industry.

“We already experience the positive impact from NAIT alumni, playing an important part in current and future workforce development and taking the lead in shaping the future of manufacturing."  

Langéen had an opportunity to tour the facility during a visit to the polytechnic this past fall. She was impressed with the machinist workshops that simulate a real production environment for the energy, aerospace, automotive and medical fields.

 “These labs, in combination with passionate educators, truly enables NAIT graduates to have the knowledge and skills required to be marketable and find good jobs, increase competitiveness and impact the future of manufacturing in Western Canada,” she says.  

With the ability to serve up to 1,300 students a year, the facility teaches students hands-on skills for machinists, millwrights and more.

Sandvik Coromant employees also work with NAIT instructors to teach students in the machinist and turning labs several times a year. Sandvik Coromant and their local business partners have also presented at open house events and program previews to showcase employment opportunities available to prospective machinists.

 “The partnership shared between NAIT and Sandvik Coromant is a very good example of sustainable actions where industry and academia work together to develop people and the talent and skills that will drive future innovation," says Langéen.

“When we leave NAIT, we take that knowledge with us into industry.”

For Jackal, learning to use on the latest equipment available in industry is valuable to his experience going into the field.

“I don’t think the machining program would be as successful as it is without the support of Sandvik Coromant. We wouldn’t get to work with modern, current equipment and tooling,” says Jackal. “When we leave NAIT, we take that knowledge with us into industry.”

Building on a decade of partnership

Sandvik Coromant’s partnership launched in 2007 when the company donated its first gift to NAIT. The $2 million donation provided:

  • gift in kind Sandvik Coromant tools and products
  • NAIT Sandvik Coromant Awards for 90 machinist students
  • funding to construct and operate the NAIT Sandvik Coromant Centre for Machinist Technology, a 31,000-sq.-ft. facility dedicated to machinist education

In 2018, NAIT and Sandvik Coromant celebrated the partnership with a renewed five-year agreement. The company will continue to support equipment, capital and operating funding for the Machinist Technology program and 60 new student scholarships.