It is with great sadness and grave concern for the future of our community that we write this letter.
Only 22 employees are left at the CNC Lakes Campus out of the 92 working in 2012/13, and student levels have declined by 90 per cent. With these low numbers, the cost per student at the campus is very high and is not sustainable – there will be further budget, program and staffing cuts in the future.
In 2013, concerned citizens, businesses, organizations and local governments (First Nation, regional district and municipal) of the Lakes District started talking about the changes at the Lakes District campus. Until this fall, there was a great deal of unity between the education stakeholders in the community regarding the need for a new post-secondary provider.
There are currently a few individuals who are working to discredit this initiative. This is unfortunate given the huge need for quality educational opportunities and sustainable economic diversification in our community.
Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT), which has a positive reputation with the province, brings much in the way of hope for an active, progressive rural post-secondary option. They are committed to following direction from the community, significantly increasing educational opportunities, and hiring local expertise. With NVIT’s mandate to provide programming provincially, Burns Lake could be a centre for northern education with students being recruited from across the north, and local employees delivering programs in other northern communities. This means significantly expanded local educational options, increased employment opportunities and economic stability for our area.
Recently, we have heard questions about the level of engagement undertaken by the Rural Post-Secondary Education Committee (RPEC). RPEC has held or participated in four meetings open to all community members, and five meetings or email communications with elected regional district board representatives (director Miller and Benedict) and village council members (including four of the five current members).
RPEC has also communicated with local MLA John Rustad and other provincial ministers including the minister of advanced education Andrew Wilkinson on seven separate occasions. It was during these discussions that the province recommended that RPEC approach NVIT.
RPEC has met with First Nations leaders on 13 separate occasions, and other community education stakeholders on 14 separate occasions. There have also been six radio interviews, media releases and mass communication emails.
Individuals from four different communities in the north have contacted RPEC members through the RPEC website. RPEC would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the dozens of community members who are volunteering thousands of hours to advocate and help preserve quality post-secondary education options in the region.
We want to embrace this opportunity – for jobs, for training opportunities, and for a vibrant local community college.
Bernice Magee, Rick Pooley, Scott Zayac, Monty Palmantier, Cathy Ashurst, Pricilla Crouse and Luke Strimbold signed on behalf of the larger RPEC group