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Building Opportunities for Future Generations of Skilled Trades Students

June 28, 2022

Derksen Manitoba donates $75,000 to RRC Polytech for Skilled Trades

Chris Derksen, Derksen Manitoba, with the new sign in one of RRC Polytech’s skilled trades learning spaces.

As graduates of the Plumbing program, having a plaque with the family name in one of RRC Polytech’s skilled trades learning spaces (‘J’ building) is meaningful to Chris Derksen and his business partner and cousin, Zach Derksen.

“It was a great opportunity to give back to the place that helped pave the way for our current success,” says Chris, General Manager of Derksen Manitoba.

When he was in school, Chris says he met many people who now work alongside him. He says the biggest reason he is where he is today is because of his education and firsthand experience in the industry. Learning through trial and error in the shop helped him understand how to do things from the ground up.

“I don’t think I would’ve learned things the same way if I had read it in a book or written it down on a piece of paper 1000 times,” explains Chris.

“I think knowing what our workers go through on a day-to-day basis and understanding the services we’re supplying, rather than just knowing the business end of it, is huge.”

Along with Zach’s brother Kurtis Derksen, the three took classes in the J building and graduated together in 2007. After graduation, they all started working for the family business and eventually took over in leadership roles. Kurtis passed away in 2016, leaving Chris and Zach Derksen to manage without their family member, business partner and friend.

When he heard RRC Polytech was looking to add a new Skilled Trades and Technology Centre (STTC) to the Notre Dame Campus and the project came up for tender, Chris says they all got very excited.

Derksen Manitoba was one of the subcontractors that worked with Akman Construction Ltd. to provide plumbing, HVAC and other services, helping build the STTC from the ground up. Chris says working on the STTC generated a sense of pride that he felt and the entire crew shared in.

“Everybody pulled up their socks and really made sure that everything they did was borderline perfection.”

Derksen Manitoba also worked on Manitou a bi Bii daziigae (formerly known as the Innovation Centre). After these two successful projects, Chris says he wanted to help improve the College’s facilities and training for the student who would eventually come work for their company.

In January 2022, Derksen Manitoba made a $75,000 donation, and RRC Polytech recognized the support by naming the Piping Trades room the Derksen Manitoba Lab. Chris says it’s special because it’s where he and his partners took classes.

“RRC Polytech gave me the freedom and ability to understand the ‘why’ and create a company that’s always striving to be different and better than we were before.”

Six of Canada’s Gold Medal Skills Canada Winners are RRC Polytech Students: Students were able to participate thanks to generous support from donors

June 22, 2022

A total of 15 RRC Polytech students medaled in Vancouver last week at the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC) where more than 300 post-secondary competitors from across Canada participated in over 35 skilled trade and technology competitions from May 25-28.

“We’re all so proud of the students from RRC Polytech who were able to compete, truly highlighting the talent that comes from our province” said Derek Kochenash, Dean, Skilled Trades and Technologies. “These students have worked so hard to show off their talents to peers and industry professionals across the country. This event also showcases how prepared our students are for careers in the trades.”

The SCNC is the only national, multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices in the country. 21 students from RRC Polytech qualified to represent Team Manitoba in 20 different contests at the two-day competition.

Derrick Penner, left, with his gold medal for cabinet making.

“It was a good thing for me to be a part of and I was able to push myself and see how I stack up and kind of gauge where my skills are at for my own personal development,” said Derrick Penner, current RRC Polytech Cabinetmaking student and Cabinet Making gold medalist at Skills Canada National Competition. “Cabinetry and woodworking are definitely passions of mine. So that’s what I want to keep on doing. Whether I work for myself, or continue to work for an employer – that’s just what I want to keep doing.”

The four-day event is open to the public, where guests were invited to Try-a-Trade and Technology activity, participate in interactive demonstrations by industry celebrities, visit the “career zone” that highlight the importance of the trades, and participants were invited to exclusive networking events.

“The students who participate in these competitions today will be the workforce of tomorrow and it is important that we support them in this journey,” said David Shnider, Director, The Princess Auto Foundation. “We’re proud to sponsor the students at RRC Polytech as they showcase their talents in the trades for their peers and industry professionals across the country.”

Travel costs were generously supported by Princess Auto Foundation, Gene Haas Foundation, Manitoba Aerospace, and Pepsi Student Travel Award Fund, along with a donation from Skills Manitoba in honour of Andrew Ormiston.

“The competition was always friendly and cooperative. So even though you were competing against each other, you could still be friends, which was awesome,” added Penner, who spends his spare time building guitars and other woodworking projects and is looking forward to building on his skills through the Cabinetmaking program at RRC Polytech.

“As the coaches of two winners in the culinary and baking competition, we feel quite proud of our students and their accomplishments,” said Kristen Chemerika-Lew and Chantalle Noschese. “There is quite a bit of time and effort put into preparing students for competitions and it truly feels like a team effort when they achieve podium results. We’re so proud of all RRC Polytech winners, we can’t wait to see what you do next!”

Chemerika-Lew and Noschese noted that the students dedication and investment in their education along with the countless hours spent training made their job so much more rewarding.

Vy Le, gold winner in the culinary competition.

The secondary competition remained virtual this year, where 200 competitors from regions across Canada competed in 45 skilled trade and technology competitions and were highlighted onsite at the venue and through the livestream.

Manitoba will be hosting the Skills Canada National Competition in May 2023 at the RBC Convention Centre, with RRC Polytech as one of the event’s partners. RRC Polytech has hosted the provincial competition on its campuses since 1998, minus the recent years the event was presented virtually.

As Manitoba’s only polytechnic, RRC Polytech has a proven track record of success in training an innovative skilled trades workforce. The College’s Skilled Trades and Technology Centre is a state-of-the-art, 104,000 square foot complex that houses laboratory, shop space and classrooms for up to 1000 students per year in high-demand trades and technologies.

The STTC also supports technology and innovation in robotics and automation, hydraulics and pneumatics, materials, electronics, computer aided design, and the Innovation Lab for applied research initiatives, and industry and student projects.

Bridge to the future: M.D. Steele helps students get In Front of What’s Ahead

June 3, 2022

Richard Wilson, President of M.D. Steele is second from the left along with his team.

Red River College Polytechnic (RRC Polytech) is excited to announce a $110,000 donation from M.D. Steele, a Winnipeg based construction company, in support of students in skilled trades programs. As part of this gift, M.D Steele established two new scholarships; one to support students in Civil Engineering Technology and the other in the Carpentry program.

“Without RRC Polytech, I don’t think I’d be where I am today,” said Richard Wilson, President of M.D. Steele, and graduate of RRC Polytech’s Civil Engineering Technology program. “I’m always thinking about things I was taught 20 years ago — I draw on a lot of knowledge from back then.”

To recognize this generosity, a classroom in the Skilled Trades and Technology Centre has been named for the company. The classroom, located on the second floor of the building, is primarily used by level three apprenticeship carpentry students. The company has a long history of partnerships with RRC Polytech, from presentations to students about the construction industry, to advising how to keep the curriculum current, to taking on apprentices and hiring graduates.

“I’ve been with M.D. Steele since 2005 and there hasn’t been one year we haven’t had an apprentice out in the field,” says Wilson. “The college has been very good for us to find quality employees — and we’re always hiring people.”

The company has many RRC Polytech graduates among its ranks — project managers, estimators, surveyors, safety professionals, and an ever-growing number of carpenters — and this donation will help attract new students and ensure M.D. Steele and RRC Polytech stay in front of what’s ahead. Since many industries are facing a skilled labour shortage, donations, partnerships, and collaborations with RRC Polytech ensure graduates continue to be job-ready on day one.

“It’s donations like these, and stories like this one, that give our students a competitive advantage,” says Derek Kochenash, Dean, Skilled Trades and Technologies. “They leave the college so well prepared — with real-world skills, college credentials and certifications — that they want to pay it forward to the next generation of students. We’ve always been happy to work with M.D. Steele and we’re extremely grateful for what they’ve done, and will do, for our students.”

The appreciation is mutual. Aside from shared benefits to donating and collaborating with the College, Wilson said he also appreciates the effort it must take to train students.

“It’d be a very difficult thing to do, if you think about it,” says Wilson. “To go and ask every single company what they want students to learn, take all that information, collaborate with it, and put it in a nice little package where you can sprinkle it on these students over the course of four years. To try and capture everything. I think that’s why I can sit here and say, ‘Hey, everything they taught me was relevant.’” Passionate donors like M.D Steele are crucial for RRC Polytech to continue to deliver and support trades programs. This support ensures students have the most up to date tools, materials & resources to learn effectively and best prepare them for work in industry.  

Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group Rolls out Scholarships to Students

May 25, 2022

The iconic 1969 movie Easy Rider conjures a passion for motorcycles and a love of the open road. The Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group (CVMG) wants to ignite that same passion with younger motorcycle enthusiasts by offering scholarships and sparking interest in the CVMG.

“None of us are getting any younger and it’s important to attract younger members to the group,” said CVMG’s Vice President John Tankard. In 2021, CVMG launched its CVMG Education Fund to three educational institutions in Canada, including RRC Polytechnic.

Through the Fund, a $1,000 award will be available annually to two eligible students in RRC Polytech’s Marine and Powersports Technician Program. To qualify, students in the Marine and Powersports Technician Program must demonstrate an interest in motorcycles, satisfactory academic standing and leadership and teamwork qualities. Recipients are selected by department faculty.

“I want to get into a profession of working on motorcycles – motorcycles are my passion,” said Beau Carino, a Marine and Powersports Technician graduate who is currently re-building a 1983 Suzuki GS450. “I actually got it last year, it was my wife’s cousin’s bike. It was just sitting in their barn for 10 plus years, or so.”

 “While the Education Fund is part of our ongoing work to introduce the CVMG to a younger audience and build enthusiasm in the sport or hobby, we also see our Education Fund as an investment in the future of the students,” said Tankard, who joined CVMG in the 90s and has enjoyed travelling many miles on his vintage Suzuki 750 with his wife, and has since had to pass his beloved bikes on to another enthusiasts due to challenges with his eyesight.

Carino has been repairing the bike in the garage at RRC Polytech with the help of an instructor, when asked if the bike ran, he quickly responded with, “It didn’t run, no. But it’s running now. The only thing left to do is the seat and clean up a little bit of things here and there.”

“At first, I was going to do the whole Café Racer thing, but now that I’m nearing completion, I think I’m going to ride it the way it is,” shared Carino enthusiastically as he noted that he and a couple of friends all ride vintage bikes.

CVMG, a not-for-profit organization, started in 1968 with a dozen members, promotes the use, restoration, and interest in older motorcycles and those of historic interest. With more than 50 years since its inception, the organization now boasts 2,500 within 34 sections, nationally and internationally. Members own more than 7, 000 motorcycles covering 200 different makes.

“Now, working on the older stuff. It’s made it pretty fun. There’s a lot of different things – like, you don’t have to deal with computers or anything. It’s nice, back to the basics,” noted Carino who hopes to join the CVMG in the future.

The various sections of CVMG host rallies, shows, displays and sporting events as well as lending support to many other various community affairs. They also encourage the preservation of records, data, objects pertaining to the history of motorcycles and motorcycling which CVMG hopes will benefit all enthusiasts.

The first scholarships were awarded to Beau Carino and Hunter Barker in the 2021/22 academic year.

War on the mind, heart in the hands

April 29, 2022

How one Ukrainian student is coping with war in his home country

Vladyslav Terzi

Distraction can be a good thing.

“There is a famous Ukrainian poet who said, I laughed in order not to cry,” says Vladyslav Terzi. “That explains the whole situation here in Canada.”

Terzi was born in Ukraine and recently reunited with family in Manitoba. His parents and brother moved to Morden in 2016 — Terzi was too old to qualify as a dependent and stayed behind. He finished university, moved to China for three years, then came back to Ukraine. By then it was unsafe.

“It was like you live on a powder barrel,” says Terzi. “You don’t know when it’s going to explode. So, we decided it’s better for me to move to Canada.”

When he arrived in the province, he studied human resources at a different college. The institution didn’t suit him, so after a few months, he moved to RRC Polytech. Terzi says Human Resources in the Business Administration program has been much better, academically and as a distraction.

Terzi likes to keep his mind distracted and focused away from the world around him. “In my case, it’s studying,” said Terzi. 

It’s a busy schedule, but Terzi still contacts friends and family back home when he can, sending asynchronous messages like they’re letters.

“I have friends who live in Kharkiv and it’s being attacked every day,” says Terzi. “Sometimes they wake up because of the rockets flying by. I have friends in Mariupol, but it’s hard to get in touch with them because of the problems with internet connections there. I’m worried they will never be the same people they used to be. When you see the place you grew up being demolished in one night, it’s… it changes people.”

Many of Terzi’s friends are at or approaching new stages in life: new careers, in serious relationships, recently married, or with small children. These friends value stability — something they’re unlikely to get any time soon.

“The scariest part is they’re getting used to this life,” he says. “They’re getting used to hearing sirens for air attacks, going somewhere to hide, then when it’s all over, going outside to hope and pray their house is intact.”

Despite the barrage of bad news from Ukraine, Terzi believes the best way he can cope is by focusing on school, staying positive, and doing what he can to help from Canada. He sends any money he doesn’t spend on school back home, choosing not to go out with friends in Winnipeg to save as much as possible. Whenever he has free time, he browses Ukrainian-Manitoban Facebook groups looking for ways to help — there are people asking for rides for new immigrants, help moving in, or even babysitting.

“The Ukrainian community is quite strong in Canada — people help each other all the time,” says Terzi. “It’s just now we have even more reason to take care of each other.”

Even with a support network, ways to keep busy, and a positive outlook, no two people handle a crisis the same way. That’s why RRC Polytech launched an appeal to raise funds for Ukrainian students studying in Manitoba. For people like Terzi, this means Ukrainian students will be able to access additional support from RRC Polytech. The appeal began in March and raised $10,000.  

“One thing I love about Canada is that people actually care about each other,” says Terzi. “It’s not just the government saying, we will help Ukrainians, it’s each and every step of the social structure. People do what they can, they understand your situation.”

When he graduates, Terzi says he hopes to get a human resources job in Manitoba, and not just for the career opportunity.

“Right now, the society of Winnipeg and Manitoba is providing things to me,” says Terzi. “And at some point, I want to give it back, any way I can. Even if it’s working in HR and helping people to figure out their problems — as long as it’s helping them, I don’t care.”

RRC Polytech has recently launched an additional fund to support international students in distress due to humanitarian crises or war in their home country. We are asking our community to give today to help international students enduring financial hardship. With your gift students who are experiencing war and other humanitarian crises will be helped through additional funding, resources and supports.

Donating is simple, see options below:

Online (please designate your gift to International Student Relief)

By calling: 204-619-0139

By mail:

RRC Polytech Development Office

C306-2055 Notre Dame Ave.

Winnipeg, MB R3H 0J9

Spring, by Lesia Ukrainka — graciously translated by Vladyslav Terzi

I stood and listened to spring,

It told me so much — with pain,

She sang me song — loud and ring

And quietly whispered again.

She sang to me about love,

About youth, hopes and joy,

Then she sang me above and above

That’s what my dreams sang to me long time ago.

As a child I sometimes fell,

Hard enough for it to hurt.

Though my heart with pain would swell,

Yet I rose without a word.

They asked me: “Did you hurt yourself?”

“I’m all right”, I would reply.

My pride would then assert itself:

I laughed in order not to cry

But now the drama soon will end;

For me, a bitter cup to sip.

And a clever epigram

Is on the brink of tongue and lip.

But laughter may be merciless:

I fear the blade of open chaff.

And so, surrendering my pride,

I cry in order not to laugh.

Original version:

Стояла я, і слухала весну,

Весна мені багато говорила,

Співала пісню дзвінку, голосну

Та знов таємно-тихо шепотіла.

Вона мені співала про любов,

 Про молодощі, радощі, надії,

 Вона мені переспівала знов

Те, що давно співали мені мрії.

Упаду, собі на лихо,

Як дитиною бувало,

То хоч в серце біль доходив,

Я собі вставала тихо.

«Що болить?» — мене питали,

Але я не признавалась —

Я була малою горда.

 Щоб не плакать, я сміялась.

 A тепер, коли для мене

 Жартом злим кінчиться драма,

І от-от зірватись має

Гостра злобна епіграма,

Безпощадній зброї сміху

Я боюся піддаватись.

 І, забувши давню гордість,

Плачу я, щоб не сміятись.

Work in a Post Pandemic World

April 26, 2022

“What comes next?”

That’s a big question on the minds of RRC Polytech business students as they prepare to start their careers in the waning days of COVID-19.

At a recent Reaction by Collision mini conference, they heard some surprising answers.

Sponsored by RBC Future Launch as part of its Reaction by Collision initiative, the virtual event took place Wednesday, April 6 and connected students with industry professionals in a series of online panel discussions, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities, all centred on one theme: Work in a Post Pandemic World.

Nearly 250 people attended the event, including first year and graduating students in RRC Polytech’s ACME (Applied Commerce and Management Education) programs attended the event, including Business Administration, Social Innovation and Community Development (School of Indigenous Education) students. Co-op and internship students scheduled to begin in May 2022 also signed on, as well as students from RRC Polytech’s regional campuses. Many instructors also attended to support the students.

“So many of us have gone through our studies remotely from beginning to end,” says attendee Ellen Cobb-Friesen, a logistics student.  “In the workplace, we’re likely going to be interacting face-to-face with people. This was a great chance to find out how the transition might challenge us from those in the best position to answer.”

“From your very first job, see every moment on your career journey as an opportunity to build skills, self-awareness, and your personal brand.  Be humble and be a sponge – seek out and listen to mentors and the lessons learned by others who have taken the journey before you,” says Brian Puls, RBC Senior Commercial Account Manager, Industry Mentor, and a former graduate of the Red River Polytechnic Business Admin program.  This was just some of the advice that Puls shared with eager students at the RBC Reaction by Collision event at RRC Polytechnic. 

“I was so impressed with the students that I had the opportunity to speak with and how well prepared they were for these conversations,” says Puls.  “Being an Industry Mentor at this event means a lot to me personally and very much aligns to RBC Future Launch’s goal of empowering and enabling young people to be future ready.”

Ashley Volpi

Panelists from six fields – marketing, accounting, financial services, human resource management, logistics and supply chain management, and general business administration –delivered a message that Business Administration student Ashley Volpi says was encouraging – even upbeat.

“What I learned was that the post-pandemic world is, in many ways, the same world as a pre-pandemic world. To succeed, you need to work well on a team, communicate, solve problems, manage your time. It was a huge relief to find out that everything hasn’t changed and that all the skills we learned matter more than ever.”

If anything, today’s students are at an advantage when it comes to the virtual social skills they developed through online learning – skills that now position them to succeed in hybrid work environments.

“I’m comfortable on camera or talking on a microphone, and being able to sell that to a future employer is important because I don’t think hybrid and remote work is a thing of the past.”

Ashley points out that many businesses have begun selling their office spaces, making the need for virtual communication skills – as well as effective time management, organizational skills, and personal accountability – paramount. 

Ellen, meanwhile, says she learned that employers have been inspired by today’s competitive job market to offer more flexibility to workers, which could mean more careers with better work-life balance.

Chris Schmidt, the event’s keynote speaker, shared a story of tenacity and resilience drawn from his experience starting six companies, including Geofilter Studio (the world’s largest Snapchat filter producer) and Pluto Ventures, his current project.

“Hearing about how Chris committed to his goals and persevered in the face of countless challenges was an inspiring lesson that resonated with all of us,” says Ashley. “If it’s something you love, even if you’re not an entrepreneur, just go for it, because the only person stopping you is you.”

While the speakers and discussions were important, so were the built-in opportunities for students to build their professional networks. After each discussion, panelists hosted virtual breakout sessions where students could ask questions and engage speakers.

Andrea McCann-Suchower, one of the instructors on the event’s planning committee, says networking is one of the most important things students and business professionals alike can do to move forward in their careers, pandemic or not.

“For many students, It’s also one of the scariest things. Events like this are great places to practice making and building connections with peers and potential employers.”

Networking certainly paid off for Ashley and Ellen. Along with 10 other students, they volunteered at the event as host moderators, gaining invaluable public speaking experience – and a chance to impress their virtual guests. Both were offered jobs after the event thanks to the connections they made.

“In logistics and supply chain management, as in every type of business, so much is based on relationships with the partners and stakeholders,” says Ellen. “Volunteering and networking at an event like this showcase that you have those skills before you even get an interview.”

Ellen Cobb-Friesen

McCann-Suchower says reaction from the business community to Work in a Post Pandemic World has been nothing but positive.“Our panelists and sponsors recognize that the students at this event are the future of their business. Even if they’re not hiring today, they value the opportunity to shape our students into the skilled, ethical business professionals of tomorrow. They want to be a part of our community and support what we do.”

Check out other videos from Reaction by Collision:

Accounting Panel:

HRM Panel:

Logistics and Supply Panel:

Marketing Panel: 

Ukrainian Students at RRC Polytech Need Your Support

March 28, 2022

The continued invasion of Ukraine is felt across the world – millions have fled their homes, countless have been evacuated, and others face threats to life. Manitobans are feeling the stress and anguish watching events unfold from afar, all while worrying about family and friends in Ukraine.

RRC Polytech is working to support international students from Ukraine studying in Manitoba. There are currently seven students from Ukraine with a combined tuition of $150,000 who need your support.

We are asking our RRC Polytech community to help students enduring financial hardship due to the war by donating today. Your support will provide resources to the Ukrainian students studying here, while directly impacted by the invasion of their home overseas. Helping others is what we do as Manitobans – please lend your support today.

If you donate before March 31, 2022, the Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Initiative (MBSI) will contribute an additional $0.50 to support domestic students for every $1.00 given. This allows you to help even more students in need.

The devastation in Ukraine is not the first-time international students studying at RRC Polytech have been impacted by war. We are committed to supporting international and refugee students in humanitarian crises and emergencies and will continue to make sure aid is provided when needed.

Additional funds beyond the $150,000 goal will be directed to a new fund to support international students, including refugees experiencing humanitarian crises from around the world.

Donating is simple, see options below:

Online (please designate your gift to Ukrainian Student Support)

by phone by calling 204-619-0139

By mail:
RRC Polytech Development Office
C306-2055 Notre Dame Ave.
Winnipeg, MB R3H 0J9

RRC Polytech is fortunate to have a robust community of International students who share their unique perspectives and skills – making Manitoba a better place. With your gift today, students who are experiencing war and other humanitarian crises will be help through additional funding, resources and supports.

Collision Course

March 21, 2022

Sparks fly between students and industry at Inspire Conference

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Members of the Inspire Conference student and staff volunteer team

Jennifer Jimenez had no idea a career at Google was even a possibility for someone living and studying in Winnipeg – until a happy “collision” at RRC Polytech’s Inspire Conference showed her otherwise.

Jennifer Jimenez, BIT student

A Business Information Technology (BIT) student, Jimenez says she’d been leaning towards a career in software development, technical writing, maybe project management. But a chance conversation with an employee from Google Cloud who was also attending the conference opened her eyes to more possibilities than she’d ever thought possible.

“That was really awesome and inspiring,” she says. “I’ll be applying to Google when I graduate.”

Applied Computer Education (ACE) instructor Laurie Cutrone says the goal of Inspire, a day-long event that took place on March 10, was to create collisions like these between students in RRC Polytech’s ACE department (of which BIT is a part), and the seasoned information technology professionals attending panel discussions and networking sessions.

“IT is a field that is constantly changing, and hungry for new people,” says Cutrone. “Creating these connections or collisions for our students makes the real world they’ll be entering into a little less intimidating. We want students to gain a deeper understanding of their field from the people already working in it. And we want to give those seasoned professionals a sneak peek at the next crop of student talent. The benefit is mutual.”

Inspire was sponsored by RBC Future Launch as part of its Reaction by Collision initiative that RBC and RRC Polytech have partnered on. The purpose of RBC Reaction by Collision is to enable students to expand their networks, see themselves represented in various fields, and spend time hearing how industry is approaching innovation, solving problems and what are the sought-after skills.  Tech Manitoba provided additional in-kind sponsorship. Cutrone says the “reaction by collision” mantra inspired organizers to seek out ways to “create as many collisions as possible” between learners and established professionals, from interactive platform discussions about innovation to speed networking sessions.

“Research shows that 85% of people acquire jobs because of who they know,” says Jackie Romans, Vice President, RBCx.  Supporting Reaction by Collision with students and industry is instrumental in helping students expand their networks.  We’re excited to be working with RRC Polytechnic to showcase what can happen when we empower and enable young people to be future ready,” said Romans.  “RBC Future Launch seeks to bring Canada together around the potential of youth by collaborating and supporting programs that provide access to work integrated learning, future skill development, mentors, and resources for youth mental wellness.

More than 600 students and 115 industry professionals attended the virtual event. In addition to sparking collisions between people and ideas, Cutrone says she and fellow organizer Manuel Castellon made it the event’s mission to inspire students about their future careers.

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Members of the Inspire Conference Student Influencer Team

To that end, they lined up an impressive list of industry and alumni panelists. The virtual format made it possible to include speakers from across Canada, the United States, and Europe – something that otherwise might not have been possible.

“Watching the alumni panel talk about their journeys helped me see myself in their shoes,” says Jimenez. “They’ve been where I am now, and I could imagine reaching their position later in my career. And listening to panelists like Al McLeod, Adam Gerhard, Leanne Jones and Dawn Benarksi talk about innovation from their respective fields gave me ideas on how to apply innovation to my own path.”

Cutrone says the conference’s third goal was to give students valuable hands-on work experience organizing and running the event itself. Students prepared and coordinated speakers, moderated discussions, developed documentation and instructions for the online event platform, marketed the conference on social media, and more. Student volunteers worked out of the new Manitou a bi Bii daziigae building throughout the conference.

Jennifer Jimenez says she was so impressed by the work her peers put into running the event that she’s considering volunteering next year.

A self-described introvert, she also appreciated the lengths organizers went to encourage participation and engagement from everyone. Throughout the day-long event, attendees could rack up points and win prizes based on the number of interactions they engaged in, including answering polls, asking questions, leaving comments, ranking questions for panelists, and uploading photos and videos.

“It really appealed to the gamer in me,” she laughs. “And it ultimately led to me connecting with the attendee from Google. I can’t wait to see where it leads.”

Watch portions of the 2022 Inspire Conference:

RBC Reaction by Collision Panel
Alumni Panel

Visit The Inspire Conference YouTube channel for the complete conference.

Carl Robert Ballegeer Memorial Award supports skilled tradespeople pursuing their careers with passion, positivity

March 10, 2022

An annual award in memory of RRC Polytech alumnus, Carl Ballegeer, will support an Apprentice Sheet Metal student who excels at problem solving, creativity, and teamwork; one who is passionate about their career; and who displays a strong work ethic and positive attitude.

Carl attended RRC Polytech right out of high school, working for a local heating and cooling company, while at the same time pursuing an apprenticeship path that earned him his journeyman and Red Seal designations in 2004. He then started his own company: Ballegeer Heating and Cooling.

Carl spent countless hours teaching and mentoring his younger colleagues and took great pride in his work and his career. His passion and work ethic earned him the respect of everyone he worked with and inspired family and friends to establish this award, which supports skilled tradespeople in training who share and who demonstrate Carl’s values.

“Thank you to Carl’s family and friends for their generosity in creating this award. Students who attend construction trades programs at RRC Polytech show up every day with the willingness to learn and demonstrate their skills. Hands-on applied learning is critical in the trades, and awards like this make it possible for students to focus on their training. In my years working at the College I’ve seen how this kind of support can take the weight off someone’s shoulders, and help a struggling student become a leader in the classroom and their careers.”

Guy Poirier, Chair, Construction Trades at RRC Polytech

Support Carl’s Legacy

Please donate today to the Carl Robert Ballegeer Memorial Award and help support the future generation of skilled tradespeople who, like Carl, pursue their career training with passion, a strong work ethic, and a positive attitude.  

You can contribute to the Carl Robert Ballegeer Memorial Award and strengthen the impact of his legacy by donating in the following ways:

Online (please designate your gift in memory of Carl Ballegeer)

by phone by calling 204-619-0139

By mail:

RRC Polytech Development Office
C306-2055 Notre Dame Ave.
Winnipeg, MB R3H 0J9

Award Description

This $1,000 annual award, in memory of RRC Polytech alumnus and entrepreneur, Carl Robert Ballegeer (1980–2020), celebrates friendship and highlights a student passionate about their career; one who excels at problem solving, creativity, and teamwork, while displaying a strong work ethic and positive attitude.

The successful candidate will be an Apprentice Sheet Metal student who has displayed the above qualities, as selected by the faculty.

In Front of What’s Ahead: The $60M Campaign for RRC Polytech

January 31, 2022

On November 30, 2021, we launched In Front of What’s Ahead, the single largest fundraising campaign in RRC Polytech’s history. This event outlined a bold new vision: one that calls upon people like you to be the change we want to see in our province. The change we so urgently need.

By helping us transform our learning spaces, attract research talent, and enhance our student experience, you will create more pathways for students and industry partners to make a meaningful difference in our communities and around the world.

This campaign is your opportunity to shape the next generation of skilled professionals, problem solvers, innovators, entrepreneurs, community leaders.

At this event, our community heard from four alumni speakers whose lives have been changed by their experiences at RRC Polytech.

Chef Joseph Alex, a graduate of our Culinary Arts program, shares the story of how RRC Polytech helped him transform a Grade 9 education and limited restaurant experience into a professional career, and inspired him to give back – by teaching Indigenous culinary arts students how to realize their own dreams.

Allison Enns tells the story of how RRC Polytech said YES when other post-secondary institutions said NO to her learning disabilities, opening the door to a career in civil engineering that has allowed her work on innovative, high-profile building projects.

Sean Rayland, now a successful entrepreneur and full-time business owner with his own line of streetwear, explains how our Social Innovation and Community Development program gave him a second chance in life after a struggle with gangs, drugs, and time in prison.

Yuriy Hlukh P.Eng. recounts how RRC Polytech’s language skills and engineering technology programs made it possible for him to overcome communication challenges and build on his previous education in Ukraine to become a manager and project engineer, stewarding some of Manitoba’s largest Infrastructure projects.