quarterly.exchange | Baker's Dozen | index page



Issue:
January 2019 - John Tibbits

Bemused by A Unique Honour

“I’m not dead,” says Tibbits, but they named a campus after him anyway

by Paul Knowles

John Tibbits cracks a wry smile, and says, “Go ahead, ask – ‘If they’re naming buildings after you, why aren’t you dead?’” The reality is that the John W. Tibbits Campus of Conestoga College was officially opened in October, named for the man who is President of Conestoga College – and has been, since 1987.

But when the 150,000 square foot facility – which now features IT courses, culinary arts classes, and programs for new Canadians – was in the planning stages, being honoured with the name was the farthest thing from Tibbits’ mind. He was focused on raising the money to convert the old high school site into a marquee facility on University Avenue, to grab the attention of students and visitors at both Waterloo’s universities. So he approached Maureen Cowan, Chair of the Cowan Foundation. “The Cowan Foundation has been a supporter of the College for years.”

Cowan came through with $4 million of the $58 million price tag. “No one has ever given us $4 million,” says Tibbits. But there was a condition – “They could put any name they wanted on the building,” subject to the approval of the College’s Board of Governors.

Tibbits was sure the name would be the “Cowan Campus”. Well into the project, Tibbits finally discovered the name that Cowan had chosen – his own. “I didn’t know what to make of it,” he told Exchange. “It’s never been done before. It’s an honour, and I appreciate it, but I find it at times a bit odd.”

This new campus is just one more step in the amazing growth of the College; and that’s the result of the hard work put in by Tibbits and his team over the past three decades. “We’ve come a long way. We’ve got a good team, here,” says Tibbits. “Top-notch academic leaders who care about excellence and equity.”

Tibbits’ official title is indeed President, but perhaps it should be “Head Cheerleader” for the College. He never tires of promoting his school, and a conversation with him is peppered with superlatives. He points out that “We have about 4,000 students who already have degrees,” and he believes that number will increase, as university grads come to Conestoga seeking the practical training the College offers. He argues that the College is not competing with universities – “We think of ourselves as different from universities, not less than,” but at the same time, he’s believes that Conestoga will be able to offer more and more degree programs, including post-graduate, applied Master’s degrees.

He envisions a post-graduate nursing degree. Changes in health care education will be driven by need, says Conestoga’s president. There is a shortage of nurses in Ontario, and an even greater shortage of Personal Support Worker (another Conestoga program). Tibbits says Ontario currently needs 10,000 more PSWs.

The entire employment picture is changing, and changing fast: “I don’t think everyone’s going to be unemployed, but I do think we’re going to have a big issue keeping people up to speed in terms of employment.”

Conestoga continues to see growth by every measure possible. In the year 2000, for example, the college attracted between 400 and 500 international students. This term, there are over 8,000.

That’s good news for Canadian students, insists Tibbits. International students are filling programs that did not attract sufficient interest from Canadians. That means those programs can exist, and they’re open to the Canadians who do want them. Tibbits notes that programs that attract large numbers of Canadian applicants – like the 900 applications Conestoga receives for 32 spaces in the paramedic program – reserve all their spaces for Canadians.

Tibbits believes his College will play an even more vital role in the economy. The entire employment picture is changing, and changing fast: “I don’t think everyone’s going to be unemployed, but I do think we’re going to have a big issue keeping people up to speed in terms of employment.” Even people “with high-level skills” are finding that they need to work hard to keep up to the never-ending changes that come to the workplace. The answer? In Tibbits’ view – Conestoga College. “The future is going to be more and more short-term training. It’s not so much what degree you have, but what skills, what competence.”

The numbers suggest this is already happening. Tibbits says Conestoga has 16,600 full-time students – but that’s just a fraction of the 60,000 or so that are full or part-time, including apprentices. Even in the summer months, which used to be virtually dead at the school, there will be 6,000 students on one of the three campuses (Kitchener/Cambridge, Waterloo, and Brantford).

Tibbits could have retired some years ago. But he says, “I’m working because I like it. And I like to think I’m in reasonable shape (he’s actually a championship level senior tennis player). This is fun. We’re growing. Training is becoming more and more important, and we want to be in that market.… We’re getting more and more into on-line” education. Tibbits is not resting on his laurels “We’re going to grow in Brantford,” he says. Despite a recent set-back in provincial funding, “We will be in Milton.” And on the south Kitchener campus, a 50,000 square foot expansion will start in May of this year.

Says Tibbits, “We need to adapt, we’re ready to adapt, we have to adapt.”

____________________________________________

In today's news environment, we continue to try to make Exchange Magazine sustainable. To do this we need to deepen our relationship with our readers. Over the past several years, the revenues from our magazine have diminished and the technologies that connect us have moved advertising money away from news and journal organizations like Exchange Magazine. Like many news organizations, we know we need to find a way to keep our journalism open and accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

Our future is starting to look brighter. We have to grow and build a level of support for every year to come, which means we need to ask for your help. Ongoing financial support from our readers means we can continue pursuing the great stories that inspire us during challenging times. Factual reporting and honest profiles of real people have never been more critical. Exchange Magazine is editorially independent - with your support, we can continue to bring Exchange Magazine's independent journalism to the world.

If everyone who reads our articles, who likes the magazine andenjoys it, will help to support it, our future would be so much more secure. For as little as $1, you can support Exchange Magazine – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

Exchange Editorial



Subscribe to Quarterly.Exchange and receive additional content that focuses on current challenges facing Canadian businesses

Exchange Magazine digital Issue is published 4 times a year and inlcudes additional issues throughout the year. With your subscription you will enjoy the digital version on the Exchange Magazine Quarterly will receive special features on business issues throughout the year.



contact us

Publisher is Exchange Business Communication Inc.
No part of this article may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
Email Publisher

ISSN 0824-45
Copyright, 2019

Share Your Story: pressrelease @ exchangemagazine.com
Expand Your Reach:
advertise @ exchangemagazine.com
Publisher: Exchange Business Communication Inc., PO Box 248, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Email Editor

Content published on this site represents the opinion of the individual, organization and/or source provider. Exchangemagazine.com is a online daily journal of Exchange Business Communication Inc. (1997) Publishers of Exchange Magazine est. 1983. Privacy Policy. Copyright of Exchange produced editorial is the copyright of Exchange Business Communications Inc. 2019. Submitted editorials, comments and releases are copyright of respective source(s).