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REPORTING · 29th October 2012
Walter McFarlane
There were several presentations made on Education on October 15th. Three of these presentations were made to The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services who was at Riverlodge. The fourth was made at City Council later that night.

The first presentation to the Finance Committee was made by Cathay and Doctor Denise Henning who were representing the Northwest Community College.

“Northwest Community College has faced many issues, over the past two years particularly, and now we are fully focused on futurizing Northwest Community College as one of the major threads that tie the very diverse communities together,” said Henning.

She made two requests. The first was to upgrade the infrastructure at the Terrace campus so they could teach using new technologies which are currently being used in the field. The second was a funding formula so they could successfully meet the needs of the learners in the Northwest Region.

MLA Marc Dalton wanted to know what is in Kitimat for learning. “We do have a facility here in Kitimat, which has been underutilized in that we have a site that is a leased facility and that's located in conjunction with the mall. If you were to drive by it, you probably really wouldn't notice much about it. But it does have two or three classrooms, it has a computer lab, it has office space, and it has equipment that can do things like first aid tickets and the tickets that are needed for industries that are particularly growing and developing and about to kind of run over us at the moment,” replied Henning.

Sousa told the committee they have eight campus locations and 7,200 students, with 1,700 being full time students. She broke down the campus’s by number of students.

MLA Bruce Ralston wanted to know more about the proposed Funding formula. Sousa explained they are funded based on the number of full time equivalents. The college is paid less per student than other colleges are.

“Many of our learners who graduate with grade 12 are below par here in the northwest region. We have the lowest literacy and numeracy rates in the province, so for students that we generally will have and do an assessment with, we will find that even though they have a grade 12, their levels of reading and literacy may only be at grades 9 to 11. So they're not prepared nor have those essential skills that are needed for them to enter into and successfully complete a program,” said Henning.

She told the panel Northwest Community College could never meet all of the needs going on in the North. They work together with other post-secondary institutions. They are asking for the money to replace some of the outdated buildings. They need expensive technology so a student would be able to work on the same equipment a student in Southern BC would be able to use.

“We are not just asking for more; we're asking for it to be replaced. We're asking for the same amenities as the students in our southern partners — that they have for their students. That's all we're asking for,” said Henning.

The second of these presentations was by Mikael Jensen and Kathryn Chicoine who were representing the Student Union of Northwest Community College. Jensen told the members of the committee they would be talking about tuition fees, funding, Adult basic education in the Northwest and and accreditation for trades program.

He explained the system of high tuition fees is both hypocritical and unethical. “The reason I say it's hypocritical is that all of the folks, essentially, in the positions of power that are suggesting we need to pay more year over year in fact paid a much lower percentage of their costs of education than students are today. Really, we're just suggesting that students of today should be granted the same access as previous generations,” said Jensen.

He expressed BC had one of the most affordable systems of post-secondary education in the country until 2002 when the government suggested a market based approach.

“We're suggesting it's unethical because the system of loans essentially says students who can't afford to pay the cost up front have to pay an additional cost in the form of interest payments on the loans that they do take out. So this is saying that folks who actually have quite high financial barriers in the first place now need to, in fact, pay more for education than somebody who can already afford it,” said Jensen.

Jensen told the board he understands the increase in user fees, tuition and ancillary fees because the money does go into the core funding of the campus. However, colleges and universities had their funding cut and increased tuition fees were the only options. The Northwest Community College has seen a lot of cuts in the past two years. The Kitimat Campus has been cut to the point where there are no instructors there, but at least it has new floors.

He recommended Ancillary fees be eliminated for basic adult education. The program is deemed tuition fee free, however, the ancillary fees are still being applies and are a barrier for people who are on social assistance.

One final complaint coming out of the college students is the amount of time it is taking to complete programs. A two year program is now taking three or more years to complete due to availability.

Jensen concluded with a quick sentence on the trades: “To us, accreditation is key for the programs that are coming forward. There are lots of basic-level training programs, but we're seeing a reduction in Red Seal trade programs where people can gain provincial accreditation, which is recognized nationally. They can take that training with them for the rest of their lives.”

Mable Elmore, the Deputy Chair of the committee asked Jensen to elaborate on the situation at the Kitimat Collage. Jensen replied there used to be two adult basic education instructors on Kitimat Campus. Now, instructors are only brought in as needed.

Dalton wanted to know if the number of students enrolling was increasing. “The number of seats in the classroom that are available to people is obviously going to be related to the number of people entering and attending the college. The number of seats that exist on the campus has seen a steady decrease and thus the number of students there also,” replied Jensen.

He said the cuts have reduced the number of seats in the classroom. Ralston asked about how a student in the trades would require a high school equivalency or adult basic education to take. Jensen told him he would get back to him on some of the pre apprenticeship programs but Red Seal and Nursing programs require High School or Adult Basic Education.

Ralston wanted to know if there was a student demand for these programs. Jenson told him the problem has already been created where the graduation of journeypersons have already been reduced. He expressed pulling funding is what has led to the skills shortage now.

Dianna Penner was the third presenter, representing Residents Advocating for a Safe Inclusive Environment. While her discussion was on more than just education, she did talk about it.

“Post-secondary education should be accessible to all, in all communities. It's been identified by both the NWCC group that was here earlier with Cathay and Denise and by the students union that that is problematic. So many things have been cut in that regard that the students can't actually access it. It's become a catch-22, and it's become problematic as a result,” said Penner

She told them trade centres should be delivered to communities which are in need of trained workers, and hiring should go to local residents as well as the First Nations before outsourcing.

At Kitimat City Council on Monday, October 15th, John Ross, the Community Industry Education Liaison from Kitimat Northwest Community College.

“I wanted to come out today to give Council a bit of an idea of what I’m doing here and why I’m here,” said Ross. “I want to bring Post-Secondary Education back to Kitimat, keep it in Kitimat and tailor it to what Kitimat needs and what they want.”

Ross wants to bring anything which is required in Kitimat down to Kitimat. He spoke with the Mayor about his endeavour and he managed to get Trades Training down to Kitimat in February 2013. He plans to develop more and more courses for Kitimat.

He wants to work with local educators rather than compete against them. He told Council about their mobile simulator and how they would be able to run a trades course in Kitimat with the simulators.

Councillor Corinne Scott wanted to know if the campus in Kitimat was large enough to support the classes which Ross wants to run. Ross replied that he hopes it is not. “I hope that we have to double the campus in Kitimat,” said Ross.

Councillor Mary Murphy wanted to know how he plans to do all this with all the budget cuts at the college. Ross told Council if he could show a need, they would be able to hire the instructors.

“Our campus right now is not closed, it’s mothballed. Because we needed to be rebuilt, it needed to be re invigorated and that’s what I’m trying to do down here. As I accomplish that, staff faculty and students will be back in that college,” said Ross.

Councillor Phil Germuth wanted to know if the future could hold technical and trades programs in Kitimat. Ross replied yes, they are in talks with the ITA and stakeholders to get apprenticeships. They can do the training, they just need the partners.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan wanted to know what programs were being put on in 2013. Ross responded by letting Council know it will be an industrial Mechanic millwright course done through a partnership with the high school.

There were no further questions. Monaghan expressed she was looking forward to the reopening of the campus. Ross replied the council would be the first ones to get the invitations.
back to the 3 R's
Comment by CEM on 18th December 2012
Schooling isn't what it use to be but if more emphasis was put on the 3 R's perhaps our young people wouldn't be faced with such a set back when they enter college or university. School trips, swimming, art classes, speakers, movie days, colouting, etc. are all great if your homework is done. Not enough time to really concentrate on the work that should be done. it's nobody's fault, it's just the way the day goes. Teachers are stressed with all the special need students in their classrooms, time to really work just isn't there anymore.
Comment by richard on 29th October 2012
removed all training programs away from the college....good for those involed not for the dok. more like a milking cash cow for the wealthly .