Col­lege of the North At­lantic needs sup­port

One core prin­ci­ple that has shaped pub­lic col­lege ed­u­ca­tion in this prov­ince has been the mix of dif­fer­ent col­lege pro­grams de­signed to serve stu­dents with dif­fer­ing abil­i­ties, ca­reer goals and in­ter­ests.

The Compass - - OPINION -

At this time of the year, many high school grad­u­ates in the Class of 2013 are look­ing for­ward to the fu­ture and their op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­rol in af­ford­able and high-qual­ity post- sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing pro­grams.

Since the early years of our dis­trict vo­ca­tional schools, New­found­land and Labrador’s com­mu­nity col­lege sys­tem has ma­tured, di­ver­si­fied and gained an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion for ex­cel­lence. The Col­lege of the North At­lantic is the envy of other prov­inces and ju­ris­dic­tions around the world, as is ev­i­denced by the con­tin­u­ing lead­er­ship role played by the col­lege in the state of Qatar since 2002.

Prior to the es­tab­lish­ment of a sin­gle prov­ince-wide col­lege, Col­lege of the North At­lantic, our pub­lic col­lege sys­tem un­der­went wave af­ter wave of provin­cial govern­ment-led re­or­ga­ni­za­tion and ra­tio­nal­iza­tion. There have been pe­ri­ods of govern­ment ne­glect, such as in the 1990s, when skilled trades and ap­plied pro­grams were de­prived of fund­ing and cam­puses at Bell Is­land, Lewisporte, Spring­dale and Pa­rade Street in St. John’s were per­ma­nently closed down.

De­spite pol­icy and fund­ing de­ci­sions that have oc­ca­sion­ally un­der­mined the col­lege’s im­por­tant role in com­mu­nity and labour mar­ket de­vel­op­ment in New­found­land and Labrador, Col­lege of the North At­lantic has held true to the core prin­ci­ples of the com­mu­nity col­lege man­date.

One core prin­ci­ple that has shaped pub­lic col­lege ed­u­ca­tion in this prov­ince has been the mix of dif­fer­ent col­lege pro­grams de­signed to serve stu­dents with dif­fer­ing abil­i­ties, ca­reer goals and in­ter­ests. This has en­sured stu­dent ac­cess to a wide va­ri­ety of pro­gram op­tions in skilled trades, ap­plied arts and tech­nol­ogy, busi­ness, con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion, aca­demic up­grad­ing as well as univer­sity trans­fer cour­ses.

Pub­lic com­mu­nity col­lege ed­u­ca­tion has also been de­fined by ac­cess to cam­puses that are con­ve­niently spread out across the prov­ince. This of­fers stu­dents an op­por­tu­nity to study closer to work or home, with­out the need to up­root their lives in search of train­ing at in­creased cost. This also bet­ter pro­vides for labour mar­ket needs in lo­cal in­dus­tries since many of those who re­lo­cate for train­ing end up re­lo­cat­ing per­ma­nently.

This year’s provin­cial bud­get sig­nif­i­cantly cut pub­lic col­lege fund­ing re­sult­ing in the loss of about 700 col­lege pro­gram seats and the whole­sale pri­va­ti­za­tion of all Adult Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion (ABE) pro­gram­ming. In the lat­ter case, Pre­mier Kathy Dun­derdale and her cabi­net seem to have over­looked that col­lege ABE de­liv­ery had al­ready been down­sized to the point where a hockey league on Bell Is­land re­cently filled in to de­liver ABE in the ab­sence of a col­lege pro­gram.

In the com­ing year, the cur­rent govern­ment plans to con­duct a fur­ther re­view of Col­lege of the North At­lantic pro­grams. If the past is any in­di­ca­tion, con­tin­ued down­siz­ing of the col­lege sys­tem through pro­gram cuts or cam­pus clo­sures will have few pos­i­tive con­se­quences for ei­ther ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties or the prov­ince as a whole.

Over and over, we have heard govern­ment preach about fu­ture job op­por­tu­ni­ties here in our own in­dus­tries.

Rather than re­duc­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans to train for th­ese po­si­tions, it’s time that Col­lege of the North At­lantic was pro­vided with the re­sources needed to build on its ex­ist­ing com­pre­hen­sive, ac­ces­si­ble pro­gram of­fer­ings. — Dale Kirby is the MHA for St. John’s North and the NDP critic for Ad­vanced Ed­u­ca­tion

and Skills

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