Member News: US Steel Canada Donates $500,000 to Mohawk College
U.S. Steel makes $500,000 donation to Mohawk
U.S. Steel is pouring $500,000 into Mohawk College technical programs — the first of a string of grant announcements the company plans in coming weeks.
The money is the largest donation the company has ever made to the college. U.S. Steel spokesperson Trevor Harris said it is part of an effort to shift the company’s focus from the troubles of the past four years toward a future where the firm is seen as a good corporate citizen.
“This is the first of a series of good news announcements we’re going to have over the next couple of months,” he said.
The grant is the first instalment of $3 million the company promised to donate to local institutions as part of an agreement to settle a federal government lawsuit over the firm’s broken production and employment pledges in Canada.
“The history we’ve seen over the last few years has changed our focus from being the kind of good corporate citizen we’ve always wanted to be,” Harris said. “Now we are going to be firmly focused on the future of our company.
“The history that people have focused on until now is behind us and we are looking to the future,” he added.
Harris said U.S. Steel has been planning some kind of partnership with Mohawk College since the company came to Hamilton in 2007 — but the recession that started in 2008 kept those plans on the sidelines.
“We see Mohawk as a very strong partner for the long term,” he said. “The real value we see is in the ongoing relationship.”
U.S. Steel bought the former Stelco in 2007, getting government approval by promising to meet average production and employment targets over the next three years. Barely a year later, however, most of the Canadian operations had been idled in the face of collapsing world demand for steel. It also locked out workers in Nanticoke, and then Hamilton, to enforce its demands for changes in pension plans. The Hamilton confrontation lasted 11 months.
That situation is turning around now. The company recently announced it will restart its galvanizing line in Hamilton. The actual cash U.S. Steel turns over to the college will finance the kind of skills training and retraining programs the company relies on to staff its mills. U.S. Steel has about 30 students enrolled in a retraining program at the college’s Stoney Creek campus learning to become fourth-class stationary engineers.
Mohawk president Rob MacIsaac said the donation is part of the college’s $30-million Fennell Campus renewal project — an effort to create the space that will produce the kind of workers industry says are needed for the future.
“We’re trying to upgrade facilities here that have been neglected for some time and don’t reflect the modern style of learning,” he said. “The college used to be a series of corridors and classrooms, but that’s not how the world works today.”
The new learning spaces the college wants to create, MacIsaac said, include areas where students can learn to work collaboratively and in a digital environment. “Our students need to graduate with a set of skills that let them hit the ground running,” he said.
The college will honour the donation in a ceremony Tuesday afternoon by naming its student engagement office, home to services such as the volunteer, orientation, work study jobs, off-campus housing, transportation and student identification.
Those offices had been scattered over 17 different locations at the sprawling Fennell Avenue main campus.