After hearing Thompson Rivers University would be terminating their lease and pulling their regional offices out of both Clearwater and Barriere, local advocates and government parties are looking for ways to continue to provide much-needed courses and training.
A presentation was given by Jack Keough, Yellowhead Community Services board of director responsible for special projects and advocacy, at the District of Clearwater regular council meeting, held Dec. 1, to shed more light on what had happened, what the future may look like and to request a letter of support from council to explore funding options.
During the presentation, Keough noted to council that the withdrawal by TRU didn’t come as that much of a shock as their “lack of effort over the last five years and lack of support of their program coordinator before that…is why they haven’t succeeded here.”
Mayor Merlin Blackwell echoed these statements, adding both District staff and others in the community had the initiative and drive to put ideas together regarding programming and what they felt was needed in the region, and hoped they had been passed along, but “you actually have to do something about it to reap success and I think that’s where TRU stumbled and failed us.”
Before TRU, however, YCS provided a lot of occupational programs, such as First Aid and WHMIS, through the North Thompson Community Skill Centre. Keough said to council that while conversations are still in the preliminary stages, they are “hopeful and optimistic” that the community can move back to the skill-centre style and partner with a local college.
In addition, they are looking to expand the courses offered to those the community has felt is a need for years, including early childhood education or home care aid programs.
During discussions, Councillor Shelley Sim noted the disconnect between how services were presented to the community versus how they were run. A notable aspect was TRU stating not enough people had been signing up for classes, something council and Keough blamed on their lack of proper coordination of courses.
“I did feel insulted, listening to that, and I felt on behalf of the entire community on how supportive they’ve been of TRU and how successful it was,” said Sim. “There’s been such strong partnerships…I was really disheartened.”
An example of a partnership is the Level C welding course in the trades trailer at Clearwater Secondary School throguh TRU. These programs are also crucial for re-training and upgrading skills for displaced workers, especially with the recent mill shutdown and the construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion.
YCS is contracted to run the WorkBC offices in both Clearwater and Barriere. Without the occupational courses offered through TRU, participants are forced to drive into Kamloops. Some courses that have been offered in town have been cancelled on short notice, or without notice, a problem that has been happening for some time, Keough told The Times.
Recently, a first aid course through TRU on Dec. 4 was cancelled. CSS teacher Sylvain Menard had paid for and planned to attend this course. After not receiving a confirmation email, Menard sent an email to TRU with no response. It wasn’t until he called YCS the day before (Dec. 3) that he found out the course had been cancelled. This left him scrambling to find other options.
“It’s for work,” Menard said of the first aid training. “The workplace, they have to have first aid attendants…I’m already late (to renew).”
He spent the next few days calling TRU, only to be put on hold, and didn’t receive a call back. On Dec. 8, Menard received an email from the TRU coordinator, with apologies, stating a seat had been reserved for him in the Dec. 11 first aid class. While he is relieved, he said it was not a pleasant experience.
“I am frustrated,” he told The Times, adding that while having the TRU regional offices may make the process easier, “if they’re not doing their job, as far as I’m concerned, they can go.”
The Times reached out to TRU for comment. They responded in an email that the first aid course was cancelled due the low enrollment of one student and that both the student and instructor were notified on the Tuesday before (Dec. 1).
They do also try to hold a seat for the next scheduled course and refund the money spent if holding a spot is not possible.
There are two upcoming first aid courses scheduled for January, 2021, but when asked where they would be held, if not in Clearwater, TRU responded, “We are exploring various facility options for upcoming courses and students will (be) notified as soon as a facility has been confirmed.”