B.C.’s minister of higher education Amrik Virk toured Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus last week to hear first hand the programming needs of the region.
“I want to hear their concerns,” Virk said before the tour. “How can we be that much more responsive to the needs of the Cariboo?”
Virk was in the lakecity on the invitation of Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett who arranged meetings with TRU, Mayor Walt Cobb and the Williams Lake Indian Band.
He said he grew up in Williams Lake and attended Anne Stevenson junior high school, the building that houses TRU today.
Virk also wanted to remind the public about the B.C. Access Grants of up to $16,400 that were announced this fall, he said.
“Say someone is living somewhere else in the province and they are on a wait list for a particular program, but there’s no wait list here. Those students and their families can get a grant to move somewhere like Williams Lake to take that training. There’s also a tool grant of up to $500.”
Barnett said enticing students to Williams Lake is also an economic development tool for the city.
“It costs money for our youth to go to BCIT, but if they can attend here the cost of living is one quarter of the price,” Barnett said.
Virk agreed, saying some larger centres have population numbers that outstrip the ability to meet the demands of offering programs.
“Here you have a building and the facilities,” he said.
After the tour, TRU executive director Dr. Ray Sanders said the meeting allowed the community to express what they felt was needed in order for the Williams Lake Campus to be successful and also allowed Minister Virk to provide some insight as to how the provincial government plans to provide assistance for post-secondary education.
“With the government allocating 25 per cent of provincial operating grants to post-secondary institutions to align with training that matches high-demand jobs and professions, the Williams Lake campus must continue to offer strong programs to meet this need, as well as continue to meet the needs the community,” Sanders said.
“For the first time ever, we will be offering Level 1 and Level 2 Heavy Duty Mechanical Apprenticeships in the spring.”
TRU will also be offering all four levels of the saw filer program, the only campus to offer this program in all of Western Canada.
“In fall 2015, we will begin offering a series of Applied Agriculture programs, the first of which will be Ranch Management, which is not offered anywhere else in B.C,” Sanders said.