Peter Lawlor said people shouldn't expect him to “tip the apple cart” at Cambrian College, at least not right away.
Even if he were to make major changes, the incoming college president said he'd need to know the lay of the land first.
Lawlor's appointment follows Cambrian's eight-month-long search for a new president. The college's current president, Sylvia Barnard, will retire in June after 11 years in the job.
“I think it's important that we move in a strategic direction, and we polish the stone as we go,” he said. “That's kind of my philosophy. We adjust and we correct and we improve as we need to.”
Lawlor, who has been the dean at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT)'s school of trades for six years, said the college needs to continue its focus on meeting the needs of local industry.
That includes providing trained workers for the mining, business, health-care and social service sectors, as well as offering hands-on assistance to help local businesses meet their potential.
“I think the college needs to be a first stop for applied research, and the assistance we can provide to business and industry with respect to their operations,” Lawlor said. “I think there's an opportunity there for us.”
Even though he's currently a trades dean, and is even a certified carpenter by trade who ran his own construction company, he said that doesn't necessarily mean the community should expect a larger trades emphasis at Cambrian.
“Whatever industry and business in the community needs in that region, then that's what we should be focusing on,” he said.
Helping Cambrian College become a “first choice for our young people” is also something Lawlor hopes to promote.
In general, this is something Canadian colleges struggle with, as students seem to think they need to go to university to prepare for a career, even though that's not the case, he said.
By chance, Lawlor visited Cambrian College last year, before Barnard announced her retirement in September. He was invited to Greater Sudbury by colleagues he'd met at a leadership conference.
“I toured the college, because I came from a college environment,” he said.
“I was very much impressed with the commitment and the dedication of the people I spoke with. I even spoke with students when I was cruising the hallways on a tour. I really enjoyed what I saw.”
Lawlor, who has a bachelor's degree in education and is working on completing a master's degree, said he should fit in well at Cambrian, as NAIT and Cambrian offer similar programming.
NAIT “was established in 1962 to really meet the needs of the economy in Alberta, and to support the economic activity of business and industry,” he said, adding that its mandate is very similar to Cambrian's.
Cambrian's board chair, Roger Emdin, said in a press release Lawlor is a “visionary leader” who has proven ability to translate ideas into action.
“He has extensive experience in academia both as an administrator and a teacher,” he said.
“He also has experience in business as an owner and an entrepreneur. He believes that success is achieved by working for and with people. We look forward to working with Mr. Lawlor and helping Cambrian achieve new levels of success.”
Lawlor is “assuming the help in an era of challenges and opportunities,” Emdin added, and the board is confident he is “the best choice for this vital role.”