The Lakes District Family Enhancement Society (LDFES) has been requesting funding to address the first stages in bringing a new college to Burns Lake.
The proposal of the ‘Rural Centre of Excellence in Post-Secondary Education’ came in response to the cutbacks and restructuring currently taking place at the College of New Caledonia (CNC).
A recent socio-economic impact assessment prepared by Peak Solutions Consulting Inc. found that the Lakes District could experience a loss of 88 direct and indirect jobs over the next two years and a corresponding decline of $3.7 million annually in employment income as a result of the cuts at CNC.
According to LDFES, the creation of a new college was identified as the best way to mitigate these impacts.
“People want to regain and expand on what was already in existence at the Lakes District campus before the cutbacks,” said Cathy Ashurst, LDFES President.
The LDFES has already secured funding of $20,000 from the Village of Burns Lake, $20,000 from Comfor Management Services Ltd. and $10,000 from the Lakes economic development service – a joint function of the Village and Burns Lake and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) Area B that supports economic development projects in the region.
In addition, LDFES has requested additional funding of $100,000 from the Northern Development Initiative Trust; $20,000 from the Nechako-Kitamaat Development Fund Society; $12,600 from School District No. 91 (Nechako Lakes); $5000 from industry; and $5000 from RDBN areas E and G.
According to LDFES, the money will be used to develop a detailed project plan for the proposed college.
Project activities will include extensive community engagement to develop the concept of the college; development of partnerships and stakeholder support; research into best practices for service delivery and governance; preparation of a detailed budget and work plans; and submission of a final plan to the province for consideration as a pilot.
In addition, a project planner and an assistant project planner will be hired to develop the plan.
According to a report prepared by the LDFES, the proposed college will blend post-secondary education with services for families in an innovative community hub model. The report adds that the proposed college will retain crucial programs and professionals in the community, and bring new jobs to the region.
“Ensuring that residents can continue to obtain training in the region will maintain the local labour pool, retain revenues from employee training within the local economy, and meet the needs of local First Nations for targeted training with holistic supports provided close to home,” says the report.
In addition, the report says the proposed college will offer “well-paying positions” that will attract professionals and their families to the region.
“Ultimately, the centre will not only mitigate the losses resulting from recent cuts at the college [CNC] – it will create additional social and economic diversity and stability in the region.”
After securing funding, Ashurst said the next step will be drafting a “concept document.” The newly formed Lakes District Post-Secondary Committee and the Village of Burns Lake will be collectively drafting this document.
“Much of what this [document] will look like depends on additional funding that has not yet been acquired,” she explained.