Workforce training on mind of incoming college president

From an alumnus to the head of the school, Michelle Salo has been appointed as Confederation College's incoming president and will take the helm this September. Salo will be the school's seventh president, bringing more than 30 years of leadership experience. She is certified as a professional accountant with her career spanning industries including manufacturing, health care, and post-secondary education. Salo joined the college in 2019 as the vice-president of finance and administration and became the school's chief operating officer in 2022. Her vision for the college is to focus on the many employers they work with in Northwestern Ontario by continuing to develop the school's workforce development team and contract training. "It's really about expanding opportunities," Salo said. "We've done a lot in the east with our mining readiness, but we know there's a lot of opportunity in the west in areas like Dryden, Kenora and Fort Frances, to work with industry partners, and also to work with northern communities in that area as well. We want to make sure that we're training people out in their communities and not just having them come here to Thunder Bay, and that's a significant priority for us." Salo pointed out that they provide education tailored to the needs of their partner employers. The school's workforce development strategy caters to required skills and training. Salo will continue to lead the college to further develop this as well as the development of micro-credentials, which are certifications obtained over a short duration. The college's focus on renewable energy is also at the top of Salo's task list in creating a knowledge base and skill set within some of their skilled trades programs to keep up with evolving technology. She said a bridging program is in the works to help practical nursing students proceed into a third and fourth year to achieve their bachelor of science in nursing. "That will be a huge benefit to all of our hospitals across Northwestern Ontario," she added. And working with other partners to expand the tech hub with another building will lead to more trade training. Salo will plunge into the development of the next five-year strategy while working with the school's shareholders. "It will be enhancing what we've already had in place with our current five-year plan, adjusting for current market demand and other things that are emerging," she said. It includes a look at responsibly using artificial intelligence in the work that they're doing, ensuring academic integrity. Also on Salo's task list is to continue the school's environmental, social and financial sustainability initiatives. This includes social sustainability and food insecurities that impact students. "Our financial sustainability plan is continuing improvement and really looking at how do we become a leader, not from a resource perspective, but from an efficiency perspective by always keeping the student front and centre and making sure that the experience is good," she said.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal