The provincial advanced education minister is encouraging the Coast Mountain College (formerly Northwest Community College) to meet with the District of Houston council to explore ways of increasing post-secondary education programs in the area.
This follows a meeting between council and advanced education minister Melanie Mark in which the former continues to press for a re-opening of the college’s closed campus here or for another way to boost post-secondary offerings.
Coast Mountain College closed its Houston campus in 2017 citing low enrolment, a factor Houston council said was avoidable had it provided training that addresses Houston’s local labour force needs, accommodated the schedules of fulltime workers, and offered regular programs.
It noted that the area has a low labour partcipation rate among residents of working age and a high unemployment rate of 11.8 per cent.
“Despite this large number of unemployed residents, there is a local labor shortage that is worsened by the lack of access to training and education opportunities that can prepare people to take on permanent roles in the local workforce,” council noted in a briefing note prepared in advance of its meeting with Mark.
“Coast Mountain College has offered no indication of reopening the Houston campus, and many signals point to a further centralization of services in Terrace,” the noted added.
And if Coast Mountain College wasn’t prepared to offer post-secondary programs, council said it was interested in “exploring innovative alternatives”.
But now, the advanced education ministry said in a statement, it understands the college is to meet with District officials.
”Minister Mark has also asked them to explore potential partnerships and other strategies to support ongoing access to post-secondary education,” the statement said.
Council noted that “transportation is also not accessible or consistent to support accessing opportunities in other communities, meaning that to obtain training, residents have to move away to other communities to advance their education.”
In the meantime, council also prefers the college’s currently vacant space be utilized for some purpose.
For that, the ministry said, council should work directly with the college.