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Instructors partner with local makers and hobbyists to fight COVID-19

May 8, 2020

Faculty at Red River College have stepped up to help produce ‘ear savers’ for Manitoba’s frontline workers.

Rob Ataman, Serge Broeska, Jesse Jamison and Nino Caldarola — all instructors in RRC’s Mechanical Engineering Technology and Manufacturing Technician programs — each volunteered to bring home one of the College’s four 3D printers, which are capable of producing the pieces. Ear savers are plastic adapters worn at the back of the head to hold medical masks in place and eliminate strain, irritation and blisters caused by elastic straps.

“When I got the call to make these ear savers, I jumped at the opportunity,” says Broeska, whose wife works as a physician at Health Sciences Centre. “As a technical college with a stellar reputation in the community, RRC is ideally suited to do its part and is contributing in so many ways. I felt this project was a no-brainer — a way to contribute while having to stay at home during this period of social isolation.”

The College has partnered with Winnipeg Fighting Covid, a group of local hobbyists and makers who are using their personal 3D printers to create, sanitize and deliver the ear savers, and other protective equipment (PPE). The group has received approval and guidelines from Shared Health Manitoba to create and distribute the ear savers, and currently has 121 printers signed on to help with the cause.

“We are Manitobans and when there is a need, Manitobans jump in to help,” says Marc Hache, a Winnipeg Fighting Covid volunteer. “Prior to our group’s formation, individual makers had — on their own initiative — sought out those in need, and printed and delivered well over 10,000 units.”

Hache says every partner approached has responded enthusiastically, and he is proud to be part of the worldwide maker community’s response to the crisis.

The RRC crew estimated they would be able to produce approximately 800 units per week, but wound up making more than 1,200 in the first seven days with the help of some friendly competition.

“There’s actually a bit of a competition going on among the instructors to print as many ear savers as possible,” Broeska says. “This project has really brought us together, where we can share ideas and have a bit of fun while we fight this pandemic.” Read More →

College hires Fred Meier as next President and CEO

May 5, 2020

Photo portrait of Fred MeierRed River College’s Board of Governors has announced that longtime public servant Fred Meier will serve as RRC’s next President and CEO, effective July 6, 2020.

Following a nation-wide search led by MNP and guided by the Board’s selection committee — one that captured input from staff, students, faculty and industry — the unanimous decision was made to hire Meier for the organization’s top role.

“Fred brings a tremendous amount of senior leadership experience to the role,” says Board chair Loren Cisyk. “A successful College relies on strong leadership and we look forward to how Fred’s experience, leading at a high-level, will translate into new opportunities for our students and our province.”

Meier is a proud Manitoban who brings considerable senior leadership experience to the new role. In his current position as cabinet secretary and clerk of the province’s Executive Council, he has championed measures towards building a positive and inclusive culture, with a focus on employee engagement that better supports innovation and collaboration to the benefit of all Manitobans.

“Red River College is a highly respected organization with a proud history and an incredible future. I am excited to serve in this new role,” says Meier (shown, at left). “I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside such talented people, whose passion and dedication continue to move this College forward. I’m extremely honoured to join such an important Manitoba institution at a time when it will play an important role in rebuilding our economy.”

While the search was underway, the Board appointed Dr. Christine Watson, RRC’s Vice-president, Academic, as interim president and CEO. Watson led the College through its transition to alternative delivery models in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We can’t thank Christine enough for her leadership during this time,” says Cisyk. “No one expected the kind of disruption to our lives that COVID-19 would bring. Her hard work — and that of the Senior Leadership Team — ensured the College was able to continue to operate during this pandemic, and that our students and faculty were supported. This work was essential to our operations, and as Manitoba begins to re-open its economy, we know that Red River College will be instrumental in rebuilding it.” Read More →

College moves apprenticeship trades training online with provincial support

April 30, 2020

Red River College and the province of Manitoba are leading the way in online apprenticeship trades training during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the College was faced with a mandated campus closure in mid-March, students were given a study week while instructors and staff worked to decide on the best ways to administer the remainder of their program and course materials.

“People were confused, anxious and a little bit reluctant in a way, but it quickly shifted — moving to a can-do attitude, where they realized the seriousness of this crisis and the economy,” says Derek Kochenash (shown above), Dean of Skilled Trades and Technologies at RRC.

“It’s incredibly inspiring to see people have their world disrupted to this extent, and then come together to teach each other new technologies, and to provide advice and support.”

Over the last eight years, RRC has implemented a number of Apprenticeship Manitoba-funded projects aimed at moving its trades training and resources online, in an effort to create accessible options for students while ensuring consistency in delivery.

Through these projects, RRC’s Carpentry department uploaded all its materials and resources to LEARN. The College was in the process of doing the same for Plumbing and Electrical when the pandemic hit Manitoba last month.

Thanks to the early start, staff and instructors were able to train each other on LEARN software, help colleagues move their course content online, and provide assistance with video conferencing for virtual classroom setups. One week after the study break, all programs and courses were able to resume.

“We’re really one of only a couple of provinces that is pushing through and trying to make this work,” says Dave McCutcheon, executive director of Apprenticeship Manitoba. “The advantage in having online resources in this situation is that it’s allowing students to progress, and to do what is being asked of them — to stay home, stay out of the public, and even to stay at home when their kids may be off school.”

McCutcheon says the overall intent for these projects isn’t to move trades training to an online-only environment, but to allow apprenticeship students access to additional review materials, and to ensure they’re eventually all learning from the same materials at each level. Read More →

Trades and Technologies programs shift to online delivery

April 23, 2020

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Red River College’s trades and technologies programs have had to come up with new strategies for helping their students achieve learning objectives.

On March 13, the College made the decision to close its campuses and transition all courses online, in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus in Manitoba. For programs that relied heavily on hands-on, applied learning, that meant being resourceful and finding creative ways of teaching remotely.

“The students in these programs tend to come to the College because they are looking for hands-on experience,” says Evan Himelstein, program coordinator for Mechanical Engineering Technology. “What we’re trying to do is find ways to incorporate different technologies, so the students are still getting as close to the same experience we would normally provide.”

Simulated CNC milling

Glen Hawker, an instructor of Manufacturing Technician and Precision Metal Machining programs, has been able to deliver a near-identical machine learning experience to his students through simulation software licenses provided by Haas Automation.

The software carries all of the College’s lathe and milling machines, and allows students to explore the corresponding control panels from their homes. They can still complete assignments and create programs to run virtually — the only difference is they’re not creating a physical piece, or handling the machine’s tools.

“They have to follow all the steps: turning the power on, allowing it to power up, resetting and loading the program. And they have to do it safely,” says Hawker. “If they don’t follow the safety protocols, the simulation jams the same way the machine would.” Read More →

More supports needed for RRC students impacted by COVID-19

April 21, 2020

Red River College is appealing to its donor community, alumni and partners to help provide additional funding for students who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

The RRC COVID-19 Emergency Student Support Fund, launched April 9 and nearing $140,000 in donations, has received an overwhelming number of applicants and can’t meet the needs of all those who have applied.

“Since opening up this fund to our students last week, we’ve seen numerous applications come in showcasing how dire the need is to support our students through this pandemic,” says Dr. Christine Watson, the College’s interim President and CEO.

“The recent support we’ve received from the RRC Students’ Association and from our staff and donors will allow us to transfer vital funds to the deserving many who need our help.”

The Students’ Association (RRCSA) pitched in $20,000 to help fellow students struggling with financial hardships.

“Supporting our students is our highest priority and this a tangible way we can do that,” says Josh Roopchand, Students’ Association president (shown above, second from left, with other members of the RRCSA executive last November). “We are pleased to join this effort and thank all the partners for responding so quickly to students in need.”​

The donation is just one example of the RRCSA’s commitment to supporting students. A long-time partner of the College, the groups funds a number of bursaries and awards. In recent years, they also contributed $200,000 to the student-run coffee shop at RRC’s Skilled Trades and Technology Centre, as well as $50,000 to the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute at the College’s Exchange District Campus. Read More →

CreComm grad goes viral with Lego makeover for Prime Minister’s speech

April 15, 2020

In the midst of a global pandemic, ‘going viral’ has some iffy connotations. But for Red River College grad Tyler Walsh, the digital equivalent has proven a pretty cool experience.

On March 22, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed Canadian children in a customized press briefing, Walsh and his two sons decided to do something fun: refresh the PM’s speech with Lego.

The result? A stop-motion video that resonated with people around the world and garnered hundreds of thousands of views on social media.

“The reaction from parents and educators has been the best part of this,” says Walsh. “Having them tell me that it’s opened up new doors for them to talk with kids about this unprecedented time is heartening.”

A journalism major while enrolled in RRC’s Creative Communications program, Walsh’s work experience at Global News Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Free Press gave him the freedom to explore fresh approaches to storytelling, including two previous stop-motion Lego projects.

“Throughout my entire career, I’ve always sought out ways to tell a story differently — to take a look at what’s been done and try to build on that or find a new way to put the information out there,” says Walsh.

“I got to ‘play’ with technology and figure out ways push our stories further.” Read More →

College launches emergency support fund to help students impacted by COVID-19

April 9, 2020

Red River College is launching a COVID-19 Emergency Student Support Fund to help students who require extra financial assistance as a result of the global pandemic.

The new fund has been kickstarted by donations from the Princess Auto Foundation, Powerland Computers and the Women in Trades Fund. It is available to students who require support for costs such as food, housing and internet access for those who do not have a connection, as well as other financial hardships as a result of COVID-19.

“One of the many domino effects of COVID-19 has been students losing part-time jobs or dealing with unexpected financial stress due to the ever-changing circumstances,” says Dr. Christine Watson, interim President and CEO of RRC. “We want to do everything possible to support our students so they can complete their studies and lessen their worries about food or rent.”

The Princess Auto Foundation, which has a long history of supporting RRC students, donated $50,000 to the fund.

“We know that support for students goes a long way in ensuring success,” says Ken Larson, President and CEO of Princess Auto Ltd. “Like many Manitoba companies, we rely on RRC grads to help drive our workforce. We will continue to need RRC grads when the economic turmoil recedes and our province begins the important work of rebuilding our economy.”

The sentiments were echoed by leaders at Powerland Computers, which contributed $10,000.

“We’re fortunate to be in a situation where we can offer support to students who may be struggling during this unprecedented time,” says Ashley Penner, CEO of Powerland Computers. “Red River College is a strong partner, and an important contributor to Manitoba’s IT and technology sectors. We are proud to be able to help in any way we can.” Read More →

Working Draft magazine provides CreComm students with professional publishing experience

April 7, 2020

When second-year Creative Communications students were deciding on topics for a project they’d spend the next six to seven months working on, Brianne Jamieson pitched the idea of telling her uncle’s story. Her uncle, Tyler Sneesby — better known as DJ Hunnicutt (shown above) — was quickly losing his vision.

Each of the 54 second-year students in the program were required to write a feature-length story for Working Draft, a new online magazine. The students worked with instructors Emily Cain and Karen Press on everything from determining the magazine’s name, writing the About section, and choosing a theme for the year — in this case, ‘Truth.’

“Truth can be taken so many ways,” says Jamieson. “A lot of people know my uncle, or know of him. Last April, when he started losing his right eyesight (after already losing his left eyesight), he wasn’t really telling anyone. He would run into people out in public, but he couldn’t see them to say hi.”

Jaimeson’s uncle had a huge story to tell, but didn’t really know how to tell it.

The students pitched their feature ideas to a panel of instructors in November, and — if approved — were able to create an outline and begin researching and writing. For the months that followed, the students were put into small groups to workshop and edit each other’s stories. They were also assigned to partners in another class section who would give their story a thorough proofread.

The result is a professional, feature-length story with multimedia components — including audio recordings, video and photography — that can be used as portfolio pieces.

“The idea for this came from a recent program renewal,” says Emily Cain, Writer’s Craft instructor for CreComm. “We were hearing from industry that storytelling is one of the qualities they’re looking for, and we decided to add in more writing courses. CreComm used to have a magazine project in first year, but this allowed us to take it to the next step and make it professional.” Read More →

College to continue alternative delivery of programs and services; on-campus classes remain suspended until fall

April 3, 2020

Red River College will continue providing alternative delivery models for programs and services for the upcoming spring and summer terms, which means there will be no on-campus classes or public events until September.

Work integrated learning (practicums, clinical, work experience) will continue to be suspended except for those instances that can be completed using online or alternative approaches. Co-op/industry placements will continue at the discretion of the workplace employer.

Today’s announcement extends the timeframe that students, faculty and staff are expected to work off-campus in order to meet increasingly stringent public health directives aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Manitoba.

“We know this is a challenging time for students, faculty and staff,” says Dr. Christine Watson, interim president and CEO of RRC. “With public health advice changing regularly, we felt that it was important to make a decision that allows for planning certainty throughout the rest of spring and summer.”

Watson lauded the hard work, commitment and creativity of faculty and staff in making the transition to alternative delivery over the past few weeks.

“We have seen our faculty and staff re-imagine their work via technology in a way — and at a pace — that we never thought possible. I also know that we have students who are struggling to adapt to this new reality. We are thankful for all of those who are working together to find a way through this unprecedented situation.

“We would love to be able to re-open our doors and go back to the hustle and bustle of our vibrant campuses. But that simply isn’t an option. We also know that when we begin to rebuild our economy, Manitoba will need Red River College — students will need training to get jobs and launch their careers, and industry will depend upon our grads to fill their workforce needs. Read More →

Red River College supports community fight against COVID-19

March 25, 2020

In the midst of a rapid shift to alternative program and service delivery this week, Red River College is dedicating expertise and resources to support the community-wide public health effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our province.

“We get through times like these by contributing everything we can to the common cause,” says Dr. Christine Watson, RRC’s Interim President and CEO. “Like all Manitobans, our faculty, staff and students are resilient, compassionate and innovative. There’s a tremendous need out there for everything we have to offer, from materials and equipment to knowledge, resourcefulness and expertise.”

This week, 14 students in the College’s Health Information Management program responded to a call for support from Manitoba Health. The students are now employed by the department of epidemiology and surveillance, collecting data on COVID-19 cases, which will help with tracking efforts in our province.

The work the students are doing will be critical for program planning and supporting public health during challenging times, says instructor Amanda Burridge, noting the employment opportunity will count as credit towards the practicum component of their program.

“Health Information Management professionals are the people who ensure that Canadians’ health information remains accurate, accessible and secure, which is vital during an outbreak,” she explains. “Our students will be a pivotal part of the team, ensuring that the most accurate information is available when it’s needed.”

The students will support the WRHA until the beginning of May, unless the status of the pandemic extends the need for their services. Read More →