Partnership dedicated to training next generation of machinists

By Magalie Jackson   

People and Skills Manufacturing apprenticeship certificates digital machining applications Editor Pick financial support future of manufacturing machinist centre machinist training Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Sandvik Coromant skilled trades student awards

Sandvik Coromant and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology have invested into supporting and educating the next generation of machinists for nearly 20 years.

Photo: Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

When this partnership was established in 2007, the training space, capacity, and opportunities for Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) machinist students was a fraction of today.

Since the signing of the first contract, Sandvik Coromant pledged over $3 million in the form of support of in-kind equipment, support in the machinist centre, student awards, and digital machining applications, which will have impacted 189 students by 2025. Over the years, the partners have continued to reevaluate and grow the partnership in a multitude of ways. The overall goal of the partnership between the two entities is to help ensure there is a skilled and prepared workforce for the future of manufacturing.


Northern Alberta Institute of Technology


Challenge: Lack of resources to offer students more specialized, hands-on training and a broader course load.

Solution: Established partnership with Sandvik Coromant, offering hands on training, tooling resources, expanded course programming, and educational funds for students in the machining program at NAIT.

Results: A state of the art co-branded training centre resulting in more specialized, hands-on training, as well as over $3 million in educational program funding and tooling support that has positively impacted over 180 plus students.


In developing the partnership, it was important to evaluate how the companies’ values and missions could align to achieve a greater goal. Therefore, the two entities set on a course to provide multiple pathways and opportunities for students through apprenticeship, certificates, and financial support.

The School of Skilled Trades offers smaller class sizes for more hands on, and theory-based learning for students in the machinist program. Students in several different programs access the centre and tooling. In the 2022-23 academic year, currently in progress, NAIT is training an estimated 1,436 apprentices, 286-degree, diploma, certificate program students, and 153 non-credit students, for a total of 1,722 students.

“The willingness and generosity Sandvik Coromant have shown partnering with NAIT is special,” said Chris Manning, department head of manufacturing, fabrication, and maintenance, NAIT. “It’s great for our students and instructors to be able to use such excellent resources that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to provide.”

Along with a broader course offering and an influx of resources, the partnership also redeveloped space previously used for millwright training. This resulted in the NAIT Sandvik Coromant Centre for Machinist Technology opening in 2008. The Centre features 31,000 square feet of skilled trades and technology space, which modernized, and consolidated training areas. The facility is used for all machinist programs for hands-on training, machine time and coursework. Within the Centre are four CNC machinist labs, a metrology lab, and a centralized tool crib, and smart classrooms, computer labs and offices for instructors and support staff.

“Before the partnership was in place, getting students onto CNC machines was really a luxury. In 2007 we renovated and went from 4-6 machines to over 60,” said Phil Townsend, instructor NAIT. “We were able to integrate more CNC into the curriculum, which in turn increased the CNC technician course. I’ve heard both current and former students say that they feel well prepared thanks to this program.”

Photo: Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

CollaborationsIn April 2022, a virtual panel discussion on innovations in manufacturing was hosted. The event inspired an attendee to request more information on a machining product, and as a result, the software was sold in just four weeks. The virtual event was open to manufacturing businesses predominantly in Alberta.

During the panel discussion, a company who was initially considering a different data gathering software saw that the presented solution was a more advanced option than the one they had researched prior to the event. After the conclusion of the event, a machine shop owner who had attended the event, placed an order for the solution on 12 machines, and issued an open purchase order in case they opted to add more machines later that year.This is how partnerships between organizations can be beneficial by promoting each other’s expertise and reaching a wider audience with valuable information about advancements within the industry.

Photo: Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

In 2022, the 15-year partnership was celebrated, with a new contract extension finalized, which will be in effect until Dec. 31, 2025. An awards ceremony and dinner hosted by the partners, saw 12 students in the Machinist Apprenticeship Program received various awards. After the ceremony, attendees had the opportunity to tour the Centre in Edmonton.

“It’s been a huge gift to our students to be able to use Sandvik Coromant tooling and be exposed to innovative technology throughout the 15 years of this partnership,” says Ronan Murray, CNC machinist technician chair. “We see that students are freer to learn and explore in an environment where all the equipment and resources they need are right at hand within the NAIT Sandvik Coromant Centre for Machinist Technology. In this latest agreement, I am looking forward to the implementation of new digital machining applications. I am also excited for the establishment of new scholarships and bursaries for our CNC machinist students.”

The latest three-year agreement includes gift-in-kind for equipment and digital machining applications, and a scholarship program. A total of 13 student awards are available for each year of the agreement; 11 awards (including scholarships, bursaries, and grants) are available to first through fourth period machinist apprenticeship students, and one award is available to a CNC machinist technician student. The final award is the Sandvik Coromant Leadership award, which is granted to the top fourth period apprenticeship student who demonstrates initiative, creativity, leadership with their fellow students and enthusiasm in conjunction with academic achievement.

“We are so grateful to Sandvik Coromant for their generosity in providing equipment and educational resources for both the students and staff,” said Vance Monaghan, 2022 recipient of a third period award. “It lifts a huge burden, knowing that we no longer need to be fixated on the cost of tooling.”

Photo: Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Continuous growth
In creating new safety workshops, students will learn about common workplace hazards and how to safely work with the machinery. Additionally, they will learn about the safe use of cutting tools and how to protect themselves from potential injuries. These workshops are designed with the intention to prepare students for working in a manufacturing environment and ensure their safety while doing so.

The ability to provide safe, specialized, and hands-on training for students in the machinist program at NAIT will help to create a more skilled and safer workforce for the future of manufacturing. The partners are committed to the success of the next generation of machinists.

“Sandvik Coromant’s ongoing commitment to NAIT goes above and beyond,” adds Matthew Lindberg, dean, NAIT School of Skilled Trades. “Not only is Sandvik Coromant a trusted industry partner, but they also support NAIT’s vision through their support of our students. Because of the contributions of Sandvik Coromant, together we can provide an exceptional learning experience for students and advance our goal to be a leading polytechnic.”

Photo: Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Magalie Jackson is the GM at Sandvik Coromant Canada.



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