Red River College buys campus to expand aviation and aerospace programs

In a bid to accommodate its expanding aviation and aerospace programs, Winnipeg’s Red River College (RRC) has purchased its Stevenson Campus from the hangar’s current owner. Located next to the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, the Stevenson Campus’ large hangar has gated access to the airport’s tarmac, making it easy to bring aircraft in and out.

One woman and three men stand in front of an aircraft in an aircraft hangar.
From tenant to owner: Anticipating growth in its aviation maintenance programs, Red River College has purchased a Winnipeg hangar that it has been leasing for years. Present at the announcement were (L-R) Kim Westenskow, GM, Boeing Canada Winnipeg; Paul Vogt, president and CEO of Red River College; Ian Wishart, Manitoba Minister of Education and Training; and Tom Kleysen, The Kleysen Group. RRC Photo
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Although RRC has been leasing the building for 15 years, college president and CEO Paul Vogt said being an owner gives the school more options.

“There are going to be many physical changes to the campus in the coming years, because the kind of aerospace training we’re doing is changing very rapidly,” he said. “To make the changes we need to make, we have to be in an ownership position.”

At present, RRC’s Stevenson Campus offers courses for entry-level aircraft maintenance personnel, apprentice aircraft maintenance journeypersons, and aircraft maintenance engineers.

The campus also offers an aerospace manufacturing course. Developed in collaboration with Boeing Canada and Bristol Aerospace, this course prepares students to be skilled production workers in aerospace composite manufacturing.

RRC works closely with local companies such as Boeing and global MRO provider StandardAero to plan the college’s hands-on training programs. This ensures that RRC graduates are trained using industry-standard tools and practices, allowing them to transition easily into the workplace.

This is why RRC is now offering a composite manufacturing program and plans to expand its composite training.

“Aircraft maintenance and aerospace manufacturing are being disrupted by new technologies such as composites,” said Vogt. “Our students need to learn a whole new process that is quite different than aluminum, and so we have to expand and equip our facilities to do so.

“To prepare people for Boeing’s workplace, they need to understand how to work with composite materials; how to make all the joins and employ laser-guided cutting, and so on.”

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In saying this, Vogt was quick to add that aluminum-based maintenance skills will continue to be taught, so that students can service current generations of aircraft.

“In fact, we have to start teaching our students how to service and repair vintage wooden aircraft, because there are still some of them around. Besides, working on wooden aircraft is a good way to learn about wing structure.”

Vogt said this broader focus will require different classroom space and equipment, and it’s likely the hangar will be expanded to meet these demands.

In addition, more room is needed to accommodate a wider range of engines and aircraft for students to work on.

Looking ahead, RRC expects enrollment at its Stevenson Campus to keep rising.

“We’ve had a steady growth curve, and we’re up to about 400 students a year,” said Vogt. “We anticipate expanding that, because both Boeing and StandardAero have landed some major long-term contracts. Boeing is forecasting 200 to 250 new hires in the coming year alone. That’s why we need room to grow at the Stevenson Campus – and that means being an owner, not a tenant.”

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