Where are they now?: Jason van de Laar

Jason van de Laar, C.E.T., is a graduate of Niagara College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology (Co-op) program. Jason worked for a year as a Research Assistant with Research & Innovation’s Advanced Manufacturing division. After graduating in 2012, Jason assumed the role of Quality Control Manager for JTL integrated Machine Limited in Port Colborne.

Tell us a little about where you work:

JTL Integrated Machine Ltd. is a full-service welding and CNC machining facility. We serve customers in a variety of different industries, including oil and gas, energy, mining, air compression, rail, valves and pumps.   

Describe your role and what you like about it:

As the Quality Control Manager, it is my responsibility to ensure that products are processed through our facility, sparing no attention to detail. I prepare dimensional inspection reports for use by our quality assurance inspectors. I am also responsible for ensuring that dimensional measurement data produced by our inspection tools, including our CMM laser tracker, is included into these reports and that the data is thoroughly reviewed for accuracy and completeness. If any irregularities are discovered, I generate a non-conformance report and work with the customer to achieve a resolution to the problem. The best aspect of the job is knowing that I play an important role in our success by ensuring that the customer is satisfied with the work that we are performing.

How has your experience with R&I helped prepare you for this role?

Working at R&I helped reinforce my time management skills and independent work skills. In the real world, you are not always going to have a helping hand to point you in the right direction. Sometimes you have to be the person to take the lead and make the right decisions when it matters the most. R&I helped me in that they give you some guidelines to operate within, but for the most part, they let you think independently and use your best judgment to come to solutions to problems. It is these principles that have helped me out significantly at developing good communication, time management and work-planning skills at JTL.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I:

In 2011-12, we helped Calhoun Sportswear in St. Catharines develop a one-piece flow process that helped streamline some of their merchandise picking and processing operations. We began with mapping out their facility floor and performed an extensive analysis of how some of their products were moved from one area of the facility to another. We then developed a plan to transition their batch processing method to a one-piece flow method. In the end, this resulted in their employees using less energy and less time to accomplish more work. Prior to working at R&I, I never thought about all the effort that goes into getting sports merchandise manufactured and then processed and packaged, so it was a very cool experience to see more of what’s involved and to help develop new techniques and processes for small businesses. 

“I met my wife, who I am happily married to for over seven years, while I was at NC. So, I would definitely say that is my most memorable experience.”

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I had previously taken the automotive service technician program at Niagara College from 2004 to 2006, prior to my most recent program in mechanical engineering technology from 2008 to 2012, so I knew what to expect in terms of quality of programs, staff, and facilities. Niagara College offered the program I needed and was very close proximity to my home, so it was definitely the right move for me.

Most memorable experience at NC?

I met my wife, who I am happily married to for over seven years, while I was at NC. So, I would definitely say that is my most memorable experience.  

Any faculty members who influenced you?

Alan Munro, C.E.T., and Lois Johnson, P.Eng., and Rick Baldin, P.Eng., were excellent role models and mentors. They are very knowledgeable and really push you to be your best and bring your best effort to the classroom, the lab or the office.

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

Learn as much as you can from faculty and people in the workplace and co-op placements. Look for employment well before graduation. Life moves very quickly once you’re out in the working world, so set yourself up for success by talking to people at potential employers about the nature of the work they do and what the culture is like at those facilities to help strengthen your communication skills. Focus on growing as a person and not just a student, the transition of going from being a student to an employee is easier if you develop good communication skills and interpersonal skills early on, prior to graduation, either by practising with your peers or taking classes outside of work or school. 

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

I have learned that you have to be mentally tough to succeed in business and in life. School and work give you some tools for success, but ultimately your mind is the greatest tool you have. You have to look at yourself and decide what you are good at and use that to your full potential. Work will throw curve balls your way and present challenges you may not have experienced before and things will not always go the way you planned. You have to be strong and be confident that you can take that situation and turn it around into a positive thing.

Proudest achievement since graduating:

I am very proud to have developed our ISO 9001:2015 quality management system program at JTL. It was a lot of work and a lot of responsibility, but it was also a very rewarding experience.

Interests outside of work?

I love spending time with my amazing wife and our four beautiful children. I’m an avid player of hockey and I love to be out on the ice every chance I get. I have been the treasurer of the board of governors for OACETT (Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists) since 2015 and have been an active member of OACETT since 2009.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Think of the things that matter most to you in tough times; positive thoughts are contagious and will encourage you and others around you!