TERRACE - New local learning centres in remote northwestern B.C. communities are providing on-site supports and reliable online access to programs at all 25 of the province's public postsecondary institutions.
This means more students will now be able to live and study in their own communities.
Contact North BC, a collaboration between Coast Mountain College (CMTN) and Indigenous communities in northwestern B.C., was created with the goal of expanding post-secondary access for students living in remote and rural communities where there are also large numbers of Indigenous students. Since the soft launch of the project in January 2021, students have registered in more than 400 courses across B.C.'s public post-secondary system.
"This Contact North BC project is a remarkable example of what can happen when the
resources and expertise that already exist at our world class post-secondary institutions come together to solve a problem of access," said Jennifer Rice, MLA for North Coast. "Ensuring remote communities can leverage technology to participate in post-secondary education, not previously accessible close to home, will change people's futures."
Students are able to take any course offered online by B.C. public colleges and universities, while accessing face-to-face and online supports close to home through the community-based learning centres. All 20 learning centres are expected to be in operation by March 2022.
"We are putting people first and enhancing educational services for learners in remote
communities," said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. "By
adapting services to the unique needs of learners in these areas, we are creating a clear and sustainable path for everyone to access the starting line of their educational journey. It's a proud day for all our partners working together to deliver the highest standard of online learning in these communities."
The Province is providing approximately $1.5 million for the project that will offer service
across the traditional territories of the Haida, Nisga'a, Gitxsan, Wet'suwet'en, Tsimshian, Haisla and Tahltan Nations. Other participants include School District 92 (Nass), School District 54 (Bulkley Valley) and the Métis Nation in Terrace.
"First Nations education leaders in our region have requested that we provide more academic options to their students, while allowing them to remain in their home communities," said Justin Kohlman, president, Coast Mountain College. "This program gives every student in one of these communities the opportunity to take any online offering in the province while knowing they will have quality technology and local staff to support them."
An initial consortium of public post-secondary organizations and Indigenous representatives worked together to determine needs and to develop potential avenues to address these needs. Those members included Simon Fraser University, Capilano University, British Columbia Institute of Technology and the University of Northern BC, along with CMTN and the college's First Nations Council.
"More students in post-secondary education in rural and remote communities will now be able to stay closer to home," said Nathan Cullen, MLA for Stikine. "By offering these community based hubs, we're levelling the playing field for those, who for many important reasons, can't attend big universities away from home. This investment gives people living in the northwest reliable technology and the support to succeed at college and university."
Contact North BC is modelled on the experience of Contact North, an Ontario non-profit with more than 30 years' experience working with remote Indigenous communities and students. Local people are hired and trained by Contact North BC to staff the learning centres.
The aim is to have 500 registrants in 2021 and 2000 registrants by March 2022. Student access and completion of studies will be measures of success.
Kitselas, Student learner using Contact North BC
"Without community-based resources such as a Contact North BC learning centre and the staff that have encouraged me and supported me, I would not be on my journey to achieving my educational goals. Through Contact North BC, I am taking pre-requisite courses - math, English, chemistry and biology - to prepare me to register for the Registered Nursing Program at Coast Mountain College in the fall."
Assistant manager, Haisla Nation Council's Employment and Training Department
"We have been heard. This is an idea that we as the Haisla asked for two years ago. The First Nations council as a group unanimously supported the idea last December. And now to see it come to fruition is very exciting. We want every student in our community to take the courses they want. We want our students to be supported at a convenient central location without having to leave their community. We want our students to have a site with stable online access. With this project, we have all of this."
With approximately 80% of jobs in B.C. requiring some form of post-secondary
education, the Province is breaking down barriers to make education and training more affordable and accessible.
- The Skills Training for Economic Recovery program has been launched in order to support people affected by COVID-19 to access new training opportunities for high-demand jobs: news.gov.bc.ca/23731
Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training
Executive Director, Communications
Coast Mountain College