The Lakes District post-secondary education committee has secured funding of almost $170,000 for the creation of a pilot regional community college in Burns Lake.
Funders include the Village of Burns Lake ($20,000); Comfor Management Services Ltd. ($20,000); the lakes economic development service - a joint function of the village and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako’s Area B ($10,000); the Northern Development Initiative Trust ($100,000); School District No. 91 ($7800); and $12,000 from industry.
Other requests pending total $26,800.
Cathy Ashurst, President of the Lakes District Family Enhancement Society, said the Village of Burns Lake and the Lakes District post-secondary education committee are still in the infancy stage of developing a concept document. However, she said the group is now working on a plan which they may be able to share in the next couple of weeks.
The board of directors of the College of New Caledonia (CNC) were invited to be partners in the creation of the pilot college. However, they still haven’t formally responded to the request. The Lakes District post-secondary education committee has been waiting for their response since January 2016.
Annette Stevens, CNC Communications Manager, said CNC is “not prepared to comment on this subject at this time.”
The proposal of the ‘Rural Centre of Excellence in Post-Secondary Education’ came in response to the cutbacks and restructuring currently taking place at CNC.
A 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 CNC cuts.
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 Ashurst.
The proposed college would offer post-secondary education, trades training and family social services, working as a rurally focussed community college serving the Lakes and Nechako regions.
According to Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold, the proposed college would better meet the needs of rural communities, allowing for synergies between the services being offered, rather than the tension that currently exists.
On Nov. 10, 2015, members of the Lakes District post-secondary education committee made a presentation to about 40 community members at the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce. The meeting was intended to discuss how the proposed college would operate.
During the meeting, participants agreed that local autonomy is critical - the closer governance would create a more effective form of delivery, including increased flexibility and faster response times. Participants also agreed that the family programs need to continue to be part of the educational approach in Burns Lake.