Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2022):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 10, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2022):
- Over the course of the pandemic, Durham College supported employees working from home, offering webinars on topics such as finding balance and cultivating mindfulness and providing access to nearly 40 virtual fitness classes -- additionally, the college prioritized social connection, organizing a number of virtual social events including an employee appreciation night, full moon ceremonies, a paint afternoon, and cooking special interest groups
- Durham College maintains exceptional maternity and parental leave top-up policies, offering a full year of paid leave for mothers and 35 weeks of paid leave for fathers and adoptive parents (up to 93 per cent of salary)
- Durham College helps employees plan securely for the future with a defined benefit pension plan and retirement planning assistance -- additionally, retirees can maintain their relationship with the college through a dedicated retiree association
Durham College’s impact extends beyond its walls
At the end of 2019, the General Motors facility in Oshawa closed after 100 years, displacing almost 3,000 workers – many of whom hadn’t had to look for work for a long time. Durham College, another long-time part of the community, was there to help.
Working with GM, its union and community service providers, Durham College opened up its job portal, called Hired, to affected employees. For a year, GM staff could access all the portal’s training and resources. “We found job opportunities with employers who were seeking seasoned employees for their organizations,” says Tara Koski, dean of students. “It was really a good community effort to ensure those employees felt supported through that transition.”
Durham College’s place in and impact on the community is one of the big draws for employees there. “There’s a lot of pride for the people who work here as the college is such a big pillar in our community,” says Jennifer Powell, career development outreach co-ordinator. “I’ve been a resident of Durham Region for most of my life and I’ve seen the college grow. I know the reputation it has in the community as an amazing institution.”
Koski has worked at Durham College for 28 years, starting as a contract worker, but has had the opportunity to take on a variety of roles since then, including working as director of both Student Life and Career Development. During her time, she has overseen, among other areas, the First Peoples Indigenous Centre and Diversity, and had a leadership role in developing the launch of the college’s co-op program.
Part of what has kept her there so long is the feeling of connection and purpose. “I feel like my voice is heard,” says Koski. “I can build new things, do new things, effect change, be connected with my colleagues. We’re all focused on student success. We’re all working toward that common goal, which makes it great to work together.”
Koski’s experience is an example of what Powell appreciates about working at Durham College. “With the size of the college, there is the opportunity to try out so many different areas and find your place within the school,” she says. “It’s almost like working for different organizations without going anywhere.”
Opportunities for personal and professional development are another benefit. Over the years, Koski has taken advantage of the college’s tuition assistance program to earn two additional degrees – a bachelor of education and a master of arts in education. “Through part-time studies, I was in school every other weekend for almost four years,” she says.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Durham College launched an employee development portal, which focuses on training, from webinars and discussion boards to live sessions, quizzes and surveys, done in house or elsewhere. Learning groups are specifically targeted to either faculty, administration or support staff. Topics range from painting and parenting to sexual violence education and stress management, as well as a training series for employees who are considering a move into management.
There is a gym on campus as well as fitness classes, and a Toastmasters group (Powell is the group’s vice-president of public relations) that holds meetings every two weeks, paid for by the college. “It has people from all different areas, so we can work on our public speaking skills and get more comfortable in front of groups,” Powell explains.
“Durham College is an excellent place to work,” she adds. “The camaraderie is great, the pride is great, and I think everyone is just really appreciative to have an employer that has their employees’ best interests at heart.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2022):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 19, 2022)
Here are some of the reasons why Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2022):
- Durham College's formal Solid Waste Management Policy includes programs for recycling e-waste, batteries, light bulbs, air filters, construction waste, etc. and used textbooks in partnership with Textbooks for Change -- used textbooks are collected across campuses and are either donated to partner campus libraries in East Africa, resold at discounted and more affordable prices for students or recycled when appropriate
- Durham College is home to the impressive W. Galen Weston Centre for Food that features an agricultural growing field, greenhouse, honey bee apiary, arboretum, pollinator garden, an apple orchard -- and recently expanded to include a new hydroponic farming facility and a new 1,500 square foot greenhouse with aquaponics as well as a storage facility to house the harvest
- Durham College manages its own in-house "Green Office" certification program to recognize offices across all areas of the campus that adopt sustainable practices in their day-to-day operations
Sustainability is a way of life at Durham College
Doug Crossman’s job is one that is always evolving. As director of facilities management at Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology, Crossman oversees the retrofits of the college’s buildings at its campuses in Oshawa and Whitby, Ont., many of which date back to the 1970s. “Our commitment to sustainability has certainly grown over the last 15 years,” he says.
On the more basic level, that has meant installing bottle fillers across both campuses to reduce the use of plastic; installing low-flow water systems in bathrooms; changing lights on campus to LED; and installing charging stations for electric vehicles.
Horticulture and food and farming programs at the Whitby campus focus on sustainable farming, which includes a vertical farm in a shipping container that produces 700 heads of leafy greens weekly and uses 90 per cent less water than traditional farming methods.
Durham College is also developing an organic regeneration system, which will produce waste compost for use in the college’s agricultural growing fields – “field to fork and back to field again,” as Alan Dunn, associate vice-president of facilities and ancillary services, notes.
In Oshawa, the Centre for Collaborative Education – a certified gold LEED building – was built to replace a legacy facility on that campus. When the old building was demolished, Dunn explains, it left the college with a vacant site, which was replaced with a landscaped quad. Beneath that is a geothermal field – the college’s third – which supplies heated and chilled fluids for HVAC systems in one of the main buildings.
“Our geothermal field at the Oshawa campus was a significant project that has taken us most of the way towards our 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction goals,” says Crossman.
The campus community can observe the geothermal system in use at the Energy Innovation Centre. “This system is mostly buried underground,” says Dunn. “But there are significant pumping and monitoring systems that we’ve put into what might have been just a traditional pumphouse, and created an exhibit-like space with audio and video so students can learn how the system works.”
Over the next couple of years, the college will introduce a significant battery energy storage system – BESS for short. Designed to work in conjunction with the local utility, BESS will allow the college to draw on it when the demand on the electric grid system is at its peak and recharge when demand on the grid is low.
Another initiative is a combined heat and power facility (CHP) at the Whitby campus. “It’s a gas turbine engine that allows us to provide both electricity and heat,” Dunn explains. “In the winter, it’s an additional heat source for the campus buildings and in the summer, it’s primarily providing electricity, again, taking some load off the electrical grid.”
Another benefit of the geothermal fields, the CHP and BESS is the future potential for islanding the campus. “In the event of a significant outage, like an ice storm, they assist us in keeping some of the campus up and running,” Dunn says.
Any new project Durham College undertakes – from heating to plumbing to building construction – is as efficient as possible. “We take sustainability very seriously,” says Dunn. “It’s important for students and our employees as well, to be contributing not just to Canada’s stated goal, but globally.”
And that means Crossman still has a long list of things that need to be done. “By the time we upgrade the older systems, there will be new advanced technology to implement across the college,” he says. “It’s exciting knowing that this job is making a difference, and that the possibilities for sustainability are endless.”