Faces of the future

Yesterday I was the afternoon convocation speaker at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ont. What a wonderful institution! I had a 90-minute tour in the morning and met many students, faculty and members of the board of governors. President Maureen Piercy and I were colleagues at Maclean’s so we were able to catch up on times past and exchange news about others we’d worked with.

The 3,300 Loyalist students take one, two and three-year courses in a wide range of well-equipped facilities that include a bioscience lab, a spa for esthetics, engines for rebuilding, kitchens for culinary arts, radio and television broadcasting studios, a day care centre, and vehicles for budding border guards to dismantle in the hunt for contraband. There’s even an unheated construction site so students learn to work in cold weather.

Set on 200 acres, the buildings are architecturally beautiful with pastoral views of farmers’ fields and stands of hardwood and pines. Across the road is Quinte Conservation, a living laboratory for several programs. A domed playing field and student residences form part of of the property.

The student-to-faculty ratio is 22:1, a level that urban universities haven’t offered in years. The results speak for themselves: 83 per cent of Loyalist graduates have a full-time job within six months. In specific courses, like civil engineering, it’s 100 per cent with an average starting salary of $43,000.

My ten-minute message was simple: be passionate, always take the toughest road rather than the easy route, enjoy the day, work abroad (but come home, we need you), be an optimist, and start your own business, Canada needs entrepreneurs. One young man nabbed me as I was leaving to say that I had inspired him to go on to do his Bachelor of Commerce to fulfill his dream of one day running his own company.

I can also tell you this. As I sat among the other platform guests watching the hundreds of graduates pass in front of us to collect their diplomas amid cheers from friends and family, I thought, I have seen the faces of the future and we are in good hands.

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