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For Conestoga, Lockheed Martin's donation is just the beginning

The Canadian arm of Lockheed Martin has given Conestoga $3.7-million worth of electronic courseware – enough to supplement 36 courses.

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High-tech security company Lockheed Martin Canada has just improved classes – not to mention job prospects – for students at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont.

The Canadian arm of the U.S. firm known for aerospace and military innovations has given the college $3.7-million worth of electronic courseware – enough to supplement 36 courses.

"There's a lot of material there," said Tim Tribe, Conestoga's director of development. "We will be using these in our day classes, and in our engineering school. It will be a part of our corporate training and continuing education classes, too."

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Lockheed has donated similar courseware packages – some this size, some smaller, worth $1.8-million – to about a dozen educational institutions across the country over the past 18 months.

For smaller schools, like Conestoga, the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies and Confederation College in North Bay, Ont., the benefits of the donation go beyond the free software. They have entered into partnerships with Lockheed with an eye on collaboration in product and technology development. The relationship has also opened dialogue on the skills college students need to get a job.

The courseware is predominately training software featuring videos.

"Over the last 10 years, we've developed a lot of electronic materials," explained Thomas Digan, president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Canada. "When you have 135,000 people in a company, training can get expensive."

The interactive elements of the software make it appealing, he said. "It's easier to learn. When we do a live-action interactive video with two people talking about a problem, it gets the person into it more than a textbook."

A team at the company's Canadian office took the software and "sanitized" it – taking out any top-secret or proprietary information. Staff also made some modifications so the information was more general and not just applicable to Lockheed employees.

The subject matter is wide-ranging: it includes human resources videos on sexual harassment and conflict resolution, and training on various aerospace topics. There are also business segments covering ethics, minimizing waste and managing large projects.

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Two Lockheed staff members will provide tech support and help schools customize the software to suit the curriculum, Mr. Digan said.

Industry Canada requires the company to reinvest in Canada the same dollar value as its government contracts through the Industrial Regional Benefits (IRB) policy. Donations to educational institutions are counted at a multiplier of five.

In 2008, Lockheed signed two large military deals: one to build 17 C130J Hercules aircraft, a contract worth $1.4-billion (U.S.), and another worth $2-billion to install and maintain new combat systems in the military's 12 Halifax-class frigates.

For Conestoga, the company's donation also includes seed money for equipping engineering labs and a schedule of quarterly meetings to discuss the company's applied research needs.

At a roundtable with Lockheed and other industry players last week, for example, Conestoga administrators learned the industry needs engineers with skills in systems integration to blend engineering disciplines.

"Research is an area of growth for many colleges, and it's an area of growth for us," said Mr. Tribe. "This is one more opportunity where we can put forth our people and say: 'This is a problem we can solve.' "

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The relationship benefits those in business, too.

"In our industry, it can be tough to hire," said Mr. Digan. Because the company deals with military contracts, its staff must get security clearance and have to be born in Canada. "We need good talent. I love to hire technicians and engineers and business people from good Canadian schools."

Everyone wins with a relationship like this, Mr. Tribe agrees. "It presents the college in a light that we are working with companies that are on the cutting edge," he said. "It shows that we are an exciting place to go."

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