Looking for fresh input, Selkirk College held an open forum for the community to share its ideas about how the college could better serve its communities. Called a ‘strategic planning session’ it asked community members to come forward with their ideas on the direction they’d like to see education take in the Kootenays.
Chairing the forum was Selkirk College president Angus Graeme. He asked “how can we [Selkirk College] stay relevant in a rapidly changing environment?” A packed house had no shortage of ideas. Twenty-six people from a wide variety of community groups engaged in a spirited discussion for almost two hours.
Many of the key themes to emerge focused on access to a wider range of education at the local level. These included utilizing digital technology to make more courses available locally, reducing the need for travel without sacrificing course connectivity. Another idea was taking advantage of the existing infrastructure and creating more locally available educational training such as Lab Technician, Licensed Practical Nurse, and Early Childhood Education training.
Creating a more seamless transition between the high school and post-secondary education systems was another point of emphasis. The community felt more could be done, and Graeme agreed, saying “we’d like to see more of a K-16 system.” It’s currently a complex and expensive process for high school students to access the college curriculum but changes could be made. Better communication could benefit both the college and students.
The success of many integrated trades programs also led to calls for more, especially in the areas of welding and construction. It was also suggested that a more broadly-based course would be beneficial and reflect the reality that in small communities people often work multiple jobs requiring a variety of skills to make it through the year.
From an economic development and sustainability standpoint, increasing the availability and focus on agricultural-based training was a priority. The rise in ‘educational tourism’ has also created some economic possibilities for communities like Nakusp to provide courses and seminars for destination learning.
Graeme acknowledged many of the things being said in Nakusp were echoed in the other communities. This was the final stop on a series of 6 open houses and the conclusion to a long consultation process. Over the next few months, Selkirk will compile all the information and later this year release a summary of their new plan and strategic direction to the communities. While this forum is now closed if you feel you’d like to contribute your ideas you can always contact Selkirk College directly.