Port school

Each year, the Port of Montreal opens its doors to transportation and logistics students, providing them with some practical advice in addition to what they learn in class.

Prosper Choupo is a student in Champlain Collège's transportation
and logistics program.


The students have dozens of questions for Valérie-Anne Côté, a superintendent with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). She has just spent the past hour talking about her work at the Port of Montreal. In the large reception room of the Port of Montreal Building that looks out onto the St. Lawrence River, she explains the CBSA’s mandate, its work on port territory, and the role that it plays in the process of goods transportation. “We ensure national safety and security while finding the right balance between security and trade fluidity,” she says. After the training, she says: “I like to demystify our role. Training is part of my nature.”

“I enjoyed listening to her. She knows the rules like the back of her hand. And she’s a great instructor. The school should hire her!” says Prosper Choupo, a student in the transportation and logistics program at Champlain College, located in St. Lambert, on the South Shore.

The program held its courses at the Port of Montreal on May 6 and 7. Prosper and his classmates were able to see the Port of Montreal’s control centre co-ordinators in action, and they had a first-hand view of operations at the port’s bulk and container terminals. They saw the steady flow of trucks and trains delivering or picking up cargo at port terminals, witnessed the impressive aerial show staged by giant cranes moving containers to and from vessels, and got a close-up look at the huge ships in port. They also had the chance to talk with various players in port activity, including those responsible for customs, security, operations and strategic management. In short, they were able to put faces, names, colours, smells and sounds to everything they had learned in the classroom.

Marcelle Simard, a student in the transportation
and logistics program at Champlain College.

a taste of reality

“These two days put me right into the thick of things,” said Marcelle Savard. “We met extremely knowledgeable people who are passionate about their jobs. They gave us a good taste of the transportation and logistics world.”

This energetic woman is embarking on a second career, following a stint working in the high-end custom-made curtain industry. Her career counsellor told her she had the managerial capabilities for a job in transportation and logistics.

Prosper recently arrived in Canada from Cameroon, where he worked in the import-export sector at the Port of Douala. Marcelle and Prosper are both students of Peter Raimondo, a logistics instructor at Champlain College.

a module for colleges and universities

Mr. Raimondo has provided his students with two days of training at the Port of Montreal for the past three years. The project was orchestrated by Yves Gilson, the port’s communications manager. “Mr. Raimondo told me that it was important for his students to learn about the industry directly from the experts and not just in textbooks,” said Mr. Gilson, who developed the guidelines for the training programs.

Yves Gilson, communications manager
at the Port of Montreal

The training also is available to other schools. This partnership with educational institutions allows the Port of Montreal to promote jobs within the transportation industry, and to strengthen its ties with the community and its relationships with the business sectors involved in port activity. “Many of these students will become employees or managers within companies that work with the Port of Montreal,” Mr. Gilson said.

Year after year, Mr. Raimondo’s students are thrilled with their visit to the port. “On average, they give this training a mark of 9 on 10,” he said. Mr. Raimondo knows the maritime transportation industry inside out: he was chairman for 15 years of the Canada-Europe Freight conferences, which were involved in the transportation of container traffic between Canada and Europe.

The students’ comments reinforce how they feel about the course. “It’s an experience that has opened my eyes.”; “It is so important to experience real-life transportation and logistics work.”; “We have learned more than we could have learned in a classroom.”

canadian forces

The Port of Montreal has welcomed Canadian Forces imagery students for the past three years. Luc Dumontier, the port’s information resources supervisor, shows them how to use aerial photos and visual images to learn about site conditions. “I explain how imaging can be a useful tool in the decision-making process,” he said. “For example, it can be applied within the context of a Canadian Forces operation.”

urban Design and visual arts

Surprisingly, the Port of Montreal has also welcomed universities offering courses in urban design and visual arts. Jean-Luc Bédard, vice-president of operations and harbour master, tells urban design students that it is important to take into consideration port activities when developing nearby residential construction projects.

Following our session, they better understand how a port operates and its economic impact, as well as concerns to harmonize port operations with the urban fabric,” says Nathalee Loubier, an environmental advisor for the port who participated in the meeting.

Over the past 18 months, the Port of Montreal has welcomed:   

  • Logistics and transportation students from Champlain and LaSalle Colleges, Cégeps in Drummondville and Trois-Rivières, and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan;
  • Visual arts students from the University of Quebec at Montreal;
  • Business management students from Cégep de Jonquière;
  • Maritime law students from the University of Montreal;
  • Infrastructure protection and international security students from Carleton University;
  • Canadian Forces imaging students; and
  • Urban design students from the University of Montreal.

young students

Youngsters participating in the Samajam program

Supporting education and educational perseverance are part of the Port of Montreal’s community support policy. In addition to opening its doors to post-secondary students, the port financially supports the Samajam Student Retention Project, which helps elementary school students foster a sense of belonging and pride in their school by teaching them percussion music. The program concludes with a huge concert at the end of the school year. “There is unbelievable energy at these sessions,” said Sylvie Vachon, president and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority. “The children are so proud of what they have accomplished. It is a good way for us to assume our social responsibility while getting closer to our neighbouring community of Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.”

and highschool students, too

Also within its neighbouring community, the Port of Montreal sponsors the CIBL Perspective Radio project, where young high school students take to the microphone and turn school work into a radio show.

This is how a very shy Antoine completes a writing project on his favourite hockey player. If he makes a mistake on the microphone, he can start over. He finishes his story in a few minutes, and he does it well. Instead of fearing the assignment, he get his best mark, which helps build his confidence.

In 2012-13, the program comprised 37 projects for more than 1,100 students at three high schools. CIBL Radio-Montréal, the Commission scolaire de Montréal and the Port of Montreal carry out the project.

The Port of Montreal is also participating in another special project that involves a sail training vessel. You can read about it by clicking here.