Residents of the North Thompson Valley will have access to local training and college programs in the near future, according to a presentation to District of Clearwater mayor and council at the regular council meeting on July 13.
The idea to incorporate programs and training through Valemount College arose when it became clear that Thompson Rivers University would close their regional offices, said Jack Keough, co-chairperson of Valemount College and a YCS board of directors.
The goal is to bring training courses but also college-level programs to communities in the valley “from McBride to Barriere and beyond” — many of the communities TRU used to occupy. The Clearwater area has been approved for course development, Keough told mayor and council, meaning the process can begin on establishing some new courses and create employment opportunities.
“The fact this is a provincially accredited institution in our minds gave it a lot of credibility, if you will,” he said. “Yellowhead Community Services society could, and has, run various training certificates when asked, but actually having a formal college that was accredited, we felt, was the way to fill the void and start trying to develop those kind of training programs.”
There are three existing courses through Valemount College — tourism administration, rural entrepreneurship and small business management and First Nations cultural tourism — that are approved by the Private Training Institutions Branch of the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. Potential future programs, said Keough, include short-term courses like chainsaw safety and danger tree assessor, and long-term courses, such as early childhood education and the Class 1 MELT program.
He added the next year will be critical as a few challenges will have to be overcome, such as securing government subsidies to offset costs and getting the programs up and running. And one thing they hope to run differently, said Keough, is doing away with course caps and minimum requirements — but something like that requires a subsidy.
Moving forward, a employer survey will be created to see what the training needs are in the area, what employers need and what the community needs, when it comes to a skilled, knowledgeable workforce. The board of directors will also expand to include various community members from throughout the region.
“We felt a real duty because of, again, unemployment services and what happened with post-secondary education here,” said Keough to mayor and council. “We felt a responsibility, a duty to try and make this work, so we will do everything we can to make Valemount College a success.”
Valemount College was incorporated in 2016 and received it’s interim accreditation from PTIB in 2018.