NORTHWEST COMMUNITY College needs to spend $45 million on a new structure to better house its technology and trades programs, its president told city council Sept. 13.
Denise Henning said the money would provide 120,000 square feet of space containing up to date equipment to produce the kind of graduates needed by industries who are about to set up shop in the region.
“There’s just more and more demand for post secondary education,” said Henning of changing workforce requirements.
Projections calling for 5,500 workers being needed in the region within a few years require the college to be at the front of technology and trades training in the region, she said.
Henning asked for the city’s help in lobbying the provincial government to come up with needed capital financing.
But she also told council, in response to questions, that approaches are being made to have different companies chip in.
Henning noted that the main trades building is not only old, some of its equipment dates back to her birth year of 1958.
“We need to be thinking of 2020 and 2030,” she said.
As it is, the existing trades building needs $6 million just to address health and other issues, Henning continued.
“We have more women in trades, young mothers and single mothers and we have two toilets for women,” said Henning of facilities in the building.
“I would be remiss as the president of Northwest Community College not to go for an ideal situation,” she said of the $45 million plan.
Councillor Brian Downie asked Henning if the former Skeena Cellulose sawmill site, some of which is owned by the city and some of which is owned by a private party, might fit into the college’s plans.
Henning said fleshing that idea out would require a lot more involvement with the provincial government.
While the sum of $45 million sounds like a big number, Henning and Dave O’Leary, a college official who was also at the meeting, said similar amounts are being spent at other community colleges.
“We want the same that southern students have every day and we’re not apologizing for it,” Henning told city council.
Mayor Dave Pernarowski said council would carry the college’s message forward.
“It’s not something that would be nice to have, but it’s really something we must have,” he said of the need for new college facilities.
Speaking afterward, Henning said it was too early to say if the current trades building, provided a renovation makes sense, would fit into plans for a modern trades training footprint at the Terrace campus.
“We have no [building] plans [right now]. This is a concept and we’re going forward on a critical need,” she said.
And if the college lobbies for construction money, that effort must go hand in hand with an operating budget to use the new facility afterward, Henning said.
The college has been the beneficiary of construction elsewhere – there’s a new Prince Rupert campus built at a cost of $12 million and a $16.7 million campus just opened in Smithers.