Humber’s new world-class facility, the Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation (Barrett CTI) defines next generation of education.

Built to inspire innovation, support skills development and promote STEAM outreach, the Barrett CTI officially opened its doors this week, paving the way for students, faculty and industry alike to solve real-world problems.

This 93,000-square-foot facility is located at Humber’s North Campus and builds on Humber’s expertise in areas such as automation, robotics, system integration, user experience testing, applied research and work-integrated learning. With equipment that is unique to North America, key features include interactive technology zones, digital media studios, cutting-edge prototyping and maker spaces, open concept gathering spaces and demonstration areas for new products and technologies.

“Through the Barrett CTI and across the college, we are working to address the skills gap by providing next generation learning in smart and collaborative spaces to prepare students for the workforce of the future,” says Humber president and CEO, Chris Whitaker. “With this Centre, we will continue to be a leader in polytechnic education and prepare our students for a rapidly changing workforce. We will also help organizations of all sizes with testing new technologies, conducting applied research, and providing solutions-based thinking to help them be globally competitive,” adds Whitaker.

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport and MP for Etobicoke North; and The Honourable Merlilee Fullerton, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities were on hand to help celebrate the grand opening of the Barrett CTI on April 10.

“Humber is building important relationships. They provide insights into what employers need and what they are looking for…This is the future and it is happening right here,” said Fullerton.

When asked about her first impressions of the Barrett CTI, Duncan said, “If we want to build the future of this community and the future of Canada, we need to invest in innovation and our people. This Centre—artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, virtual reality — students are going to have the cutting-edge skills to be employed and to build Canada.”

While the building contains no traditional classrooms, the space is meant to provide a unique teaching and learning environment to mend the gap between education and real-world experience. The Centre provides a variety of education programs and disciplines under one roof for all students to enhance their skills and creativity in their chosen field. 

From the building infrastructure to new technology and equipment, Humber has received support from many to help the college take a bold step in building a brighter future for students and the community.

The catalyst for the Barrett CTI was a $10 million investment from The Barrett Family Foundation, the largest private donation in Humber’s history. This commitment also supports student awards and scholarships, skills mentorship programs and equipment and technology.

“We started working with Humber in order to help young people in Canada train for the careers of tomorrow though applied, hands-on learning. We are proud to have been the catalyst to bring about this building and the network of partners that Humber has cultivated. We are amazed at how well Humber has gone about realizing the dream we created together,” says Bob Barrett, founder, The Barrett Family Foundation and president and CEO, Polytainers.

Additional funding was provided by the Government of Canada which contributed $15.5 million from the Post-Secondary Strategic Investment Fund, and the Government of Ontario which supported the purchase of key equipment within the building through $1.55 million from the College Equipment and Renewal Fund.

Strengthening the vision for the Barrett CTI, the college will work closely with eight leading industry partners who are working with the college to train students and employees of Canadian companies to advance their skills and the future of technology innovation. Cimetrix Solutions, a division of Javelin Technologies, Cisco Systems Canada Co., DMG MORI Canada Inc., Festo Didactic Inc., KUKA Robotics Canada Inc., Rockwell Automation Inc., SEW-EURODRIVE Company of Canada Ltd., and SICK Sensor Intelligence all bring new technologies and opportunities to the Barrett CTI and are founding members of Humber’s Advanced Manufacturing Skills Consortium.

With a vision to brighten the future for students and the Centre, Neal Mohammed, Director for Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation says, the opportunities to gain knowledge and experience in the Centre will help students excel and reach new potential.

“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing students succeed in the classroom and in their careers. Our polytechnic model prioritizes student and faculty collaboration with industry and the wider community. This gives them real-world experience and helps to make them career-ready,” says Mohammed.

Along with the hands-on learning and practical skills students will receive, the building structure is a learning space in itself.

In keeping with Humber’s commitment to sustainability, the Barrett CTI is targeting LEED-Platinum certification and will be a net-zero energy building. It includes sustainability features that will function as teaching tools, such as passive cooling systems, a high-performance roofing system and building envelope, hydronic in-floor heating, a green roof, and an abundance of natural, low-energy materials with long lifespans.

Humber is also honouring Indigenous voices and experiences with the second installation of the college’s Indigenous Cultural Markers (ICMs). The ICM in the Barrett CTI was designed by Anishinaabe architect Ryan Gorrie and helps place the college in the context of the long history of Indigenous peoples in what is now called the Greater Toronto Area.

By bringing the community, researchers and companies together in a multi-purpose Centre, these modern learning spaces will help to advance businesses and industries across the country and beyond, giving students a new way to explore their education.

“The Barrett Centre is taking this model and turning up the heat,” says Mohammed.