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Oro Station development 'very exciting' for Georgian College, students

'The educational opportunities are massive,' says Formula-E racing team official who is working with the project's Orillia-based developer

This is Part 2 of a three-part series on the Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park. Click here to read Part 1.

The Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park could be an invaluable resource for post-secondary students.

The park, on Line 7 in Oro-Medonte, will be a hub for automotive research. It caught the attention of Georgian College, whose Barrie campus is home to the Automotive Business School of Canada.

“It’s a very exciting project that has a lot of different components to it that are of interest to Georgian College,” said Kevin Weaver, Georgian’s vice-president of academic. “We see multiple avenues and opportunities once Oro Station is up and running.”

While the opportunities for automotive business students seem obvious, they’re not the only ones who could benefit from the nearby Oro Station development. Georgian offers more than 130 programs and is Ontario’s largest co-op college.

Oro Station could also be a good fit for students in the hospitality, tourism and recreation program, as well as those studying marketing, manufacturing, electrical engineering and skilled trades.

Seeing the possibilities, Georgian entered a partnership with Oro Station that “will create expanded opportunities in our region for academic programming, research and innovation, and apprenticeship and skilled-labour training focused on emerging automotive technology,” the college stated in a news release last year.

That emerging technology and Oro Station’s focus on alternative fuel sources aren’t new to Georgian and its Automotive Business School of Canada.

“That’s something we’re keenly interested in, so that’s a great fit for this project,” Weaver said.

Until Oro Station is operational, it’s difficult to highlight specific opportunities for students, he added.

“It will really depend on who some of those tenants are in the innovation park and what their needs are,” he said.

Keith Smout, chief commercial officer with the DS-Techeetah Formula-E racing team, believes “the educational opportunities are massive” at Oro Station.

“They need a place to learn, and that’s a good starting point,” said Smout, who is helping developer Geoff Campbell with the commercial side of Oro Station. “There’s so much to learn in the future of innovation.”

He is seeing growing interest among students in electric vehicles and other environmentally friendly alternatives in the auto sector.

“A lot of people that are younger realize how important that is for the future,” he said.

Campbell, managing partner with Oakleigh Developments, is thrilled to have a partnership with Georgian College. Given its Automotive Business School of Canada, “it was absolutely a good fit between the two,” he said.

“For them, practical application of knowledge is very important. It’s easy for students to get here and get that real-world experience,” Campbell said. “There are so many potential benefits to Georgian College and Oro Station working together, it’s hard to narrow down where to start.”

He is also in discussions with the University of Waterloo, which is home to the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research — a “mini-Oro Station” on campus, as Campbell described it.

“Their skill sets are very applicable to what we’re doing here,” he said. “We’re excited about the opportunities for many different schools.”

He expects interest will only grow over the years, especially as new and alternative technologies become increasingly prominent in high school curricula.

“It’s a necessary investment in getting from the idea to the reality,” Campbell said.

Check back Thursday for Part 3 of this series, which will focus on the progress made so far on Oro Station and what’s next.