TORONTO — Ontario engineering students Tuesday received a $185 million gift from a Canadian corporate alliance to help them attain what the president of General Motors Canada calls “engineers’ dream jobs.”

The University of Toronto, The University of Waterloo and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., received donations of computer-aided design, engineering and manufacturing software, hardware and training from Sun Microsystems of Canada, GM of Canada, EDS Canada and EDS PLM Solutions. The companies collectively form a group called PACE (Partners for the Advancement of CAD/CAM/CAE Education).

The donations will be put towards engineering applications in automotive design, plus design applications for aerospace, healthcare, machinery, telecommunications equipment and consumer products.

To remain competitive in the global economy, Canada “needs a greater command of computer-aid and analysis tools than ever before,” said GM Canada president Maureen Kempson Darkes during a ceremony that was conducted on the University of Toronto campus.

“This gift is really about the best possible undergraduate education for our engineering students,” added University of Toronto president Robert Birgeneau. “It provides the tools needed (for students) to hit the ground running when they leave our cocoon and enter the workplace full time.”

Access to the most up-to-date design tools fits nicely into Queen’s University’s new policy of inter-department collaboration, said principal and vice-chancellor William Leggett, who referred to a “redesign of the education paradigm” at Queen’s. The university is taking a problem-solving approach to engineering by encouraging cooperation between its various engineering departments and business students.

By bringing their engineering departments up to speed on the latest design tools, students will learn the skills that may directly transfer to jobs in the sponsoring companies, said Doug Barkley, executive vice-president of EDS Canada. Sun Canada CEO Everett Anstey referred to a growing and necessary level of cooperation between private and public institutions where students receive practical instruction and Canada’s IT job market receives qualified personnel.

The PACE partnership between educational institutions and big business is “another example of what can be accomplished when business leaders and universities work together . . . to make Canada more competitive,” said Ontario minister of training, colleges and universities Dianne Cunningham.

Cunningham oversaw another such partnership at Toronto’s Centennial College last month, which received $10.25 million from Compaq Canada and Avaya towards a new technology centre.

There are a total of 24 PACE sites planned in academic institutions across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, 15 of which have already been established or announced. More Canadian sites will be announced next year.

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