THE HEAD of a provincial association of post secondary instructors believes a united front is needed to convince the provincial government to avoid program closures and layoffs at Northwest Community College.
Cindy Oliver from the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is asking that college president Denise Henning and college board chair Rhoda Witherly join her in lobbying the provincial advanced education minister.
Oliver said cuts and layoffs at the college to cure a deficit don’t make any sense given the need to train northwestern residents for the major economic development projects now underway or about to start.
Various provincial estimates indicate northwestern residents aren’t prepared to take advantage of the work to be generated because they lack the necessary employment and education skills.
A study released Jan. 26 by BC Hydro, which is building the Northwest Transmission Line from Terrace to Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North, estimates there will be $7.5 billion in construction underway by 2014 in the area.
“NWCC does some fabulous work, they’re a leader in their communities and they need to be able to do that work,” Oliver said.
“It’s cruel, frankly, and it doesn’t take into consideration the needs of the community. It’s not a way to keep those areas vital and to keep people in the communities. You have to provide them with learning opportunity,” said Oliver of plans by the college to reduce its offerings.
The college, however is facing a deficit estimated to be anywhere from $1.6 million to $2 million, prompting it to tell its union and non-union employees and managers to expect layoffs this spring.
Oliver said she’s convinced the province, by looking within its own budget, can find the money the college needs.
She noted that cutting programs and workers at the college also goes against commitments made last week by the federal government to improve the educational level of aboriginal people.
Oliver also found it ironic that Premier Christy Clark decided to launch her jobs plan last year in the northwest only to have the region’s college to then make cuts.
Meanwhile, NWCC students are also speaking out and calling for the province to increase the college’s budget.
“Students are concerned that if $2 million is cut from NWCC programs and services, the college’s ability to properly serve our communities will be severely compromised, we need the BC government to restore funding to NWCC so the college can improve and growm,” said Amarilys Ducharme, the treasurer of the college’s student union.
“Had government funding increased by the rate of inflation since the year 2000, NWCC would not be facing deficits and cuts year after year,” added Mikael Jensen, a student union organizer.
“The [college] board of governors needs to join students in the call for increased government funding to save NWCC programs, courses and services rather than making plans to cut,” he said.