This past week I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time at the Lakes District campus of the College of New Caledonia (CNC).
I heard the voices of many concerned instructors, program coordinators and union representatives about the proposed cutbacks at CNC.
The college now faces a deficit of $2.8 million in its budget, and is prosing a series of cutbacks to address this issue – including the suspension of intakes for certain programs and laying off staff.
Last Friday, 10 employees of the Lakes District campus received layoff notices. Some of these employees will be hired back with reduced hours.
If you think 10 is not a significant number, you should know that they represent over 20 per cent of the staff of the Lakes District campus.
Any competent manager will tell you that a good work climate is vital for any organization – when people are feeling safe and valued at work, they will perform their best.
From what I learned this week about our campus, I realized that the need for a good work climate here is even greater than in other organizations. In order for staff to identify priorities in the community, create new programs and motivate community members to attend these programs, the staff need to be motivated themselves! Let me paint you a picture…
The Lakes District campus works differently than some of the other campuses in the region. While the majority of programs in Prince George receive base funding, most of the programs in Burns Lake work as cost-recovery. This basically means that our campus fundraises for new programs through proposals, grants, industry partnerships and partnerships with First Nations communities. It also means that our campus is responsive to community needs, and most of the programs are created based on priorities identified in our area.
So the Lakes District campus plays a vital role in addressing a number of issues in this community.
In December 2014, our campus created a program called Hasadeendee. This program was intended to enhance the mental health of mother and father figures in our community. Burns Lake already had a program specifically for mothers, but staff here identified a need to support other family members including men.
How do you go around motivating students and creating new programs when you are unsure if you will still have your job in a near future?
I would imagine that when 20 per cent of staff is being laid off, that would certainly create uncertainty and unease. Furthermore, how is staff going to be motivated to go after new programs with increased fees and challenges in the organization?
While speaking to several college employees over this past week – some of whom have worked at the college for over a decade and had just found out they were being laid off – I realized how passionate these individuals are about their jobs.
This is not the first time that the Lakes District campus has faced some cutbacks. In 2014, staff hours were reduced by 360 hours a week. Considering that a full-time position has 35 hours per week, the cutbacks were equivalent to 10 full-time positions.
When I spoke to Lily Bachand, President of CUPE Local 4951, she mentioned how important it was for community leaders to stand up against all these cutbacks.
A powerful province such as B.C. should now allow extensive cuts in post-secondary education. If young people cannot go to college, they will move. If they move, they are taking away opportunities for growth in our area and money that would help improve our local economy.