Connecting with local industry and with the community are two important priorities at the Houston Northwest Community College campus.
Regina Saimoto, NWCC Regional Director, spoke to council last week Tuesday, about the Houston campus and programs.
Saimoto says the partnerships they are developing in different industries are providing a win-win situation: it’s helping them create stronger, more relevant programs and it’s building industry connections for students for future employment.
Partnering with the Central Interior Loggers Association, NWCC is offering a Heavy Equipment Operator Forestry program in Houston starting this fall – which is still open for more students and waiting for an instructor to be confirmed.
Saimoto says they talked with Canfor, Houston Forest Products, Pacific Inland Resources, B.C. Timber Sales and some of the logging contractors to make sure the curriculum is relevant to the industry.
Mayor Bill Holmberg says it’s encouraging that the college is working with the CILA, as they seem to be ahead of the coast with their operator training.
NWCC is also developing a program for Mineral Processing Operator in partnership with Huckleberry Mines Ltd., which they are offering this winter.
Offered at the college through the School of Exploration and Mining, the program details are still being worked out, said Saimoto.
They will also offer an ACE IT/Foundation Carpentry program for both adults and high school students this winter, starting February 3, 2014.
It is a dual credit program with Houston Secondary School, so high school students get high school credits and Foundation of Carpentry college credits, as well as having their tuition paid through Industry Training Authority through School District 54.
For adults there is funding aid through the Labour Market Agreement and there is a student loan forgiveness program for those who finish the trade.
“For adults in the community who are interested in trades, this is great opportunity to start down that pathway,” said Saimoto.
Last year they ran a Health Care Assistant program in Houston, successfully completed by 15 students.
They’re running the program again in Smithers at the request of Northern Health, the biggest employer for students from that program, said Saimoto.
“Another thing we try to do is connect with industry to make sure that the programs we offer are closely linked to the needs in the industry and the community and to make sure that there’s employment for graduates at the end of the program,” Saimoto said.
Mayor Holmberg asked if there are challenges getting qualified instructors for their courses, and Saimoto confirmed.
“That is definitely one of the hurdles… Because trades is a huge shortage in our area, for us to attract qualified instructors is a difficulty,” she said.
Saimoto says the Houston college campus is unique as it is piloting as a community learning centre, allowing students to access online education opportunities from anywhere in the province and do those courses in a school environment.
They recently hosted a Northern Post-Secondary Collaborative meeting, with representatives from all the northern post-secondary institutions coming to Houston.
“They had a tour through the Community Learning Centre because it’s an innovative way to do programming in the province, and I think it was well received,” Saimoto said.
Finally, the college also runs an alternate school program in partnership with School District 54, Youth Empowerment Program (YEP), Houston Link to Learning, and others.
“It provides students who don’t function well in the traditional school system with an alternate way to get their education,” Saimoto said.
“It’s definitely filled a need in the community,” she said.
Anyone interested in NWCC programs is asked to contact the Houston campus at 250-845-7266.