A good portion of a $250,000 donation made by pipeline builder TransCanada to Northwest Community College last week is being used to help people obtain driver’s licences – the lack of which has been cited frequently by those training people for jobs.
“We have long heard from communities and students that not having a driver’s licence is not only a barrier to accessing post-secondary education, but also a barrier to employment,” says Northwest Community College President Ken Burt. “This program will help build capacity in small communities and enable students to access educational and employment opportunities.”
The first driver training courses, to help students go through the graduated licence system, will be offered free in Moricetown between Smithers and Hazelton this spring and the TransCanada donation was also used to buy a car for the purpose.
The car purchased, a Toyota Corolla, is outfitted with dual brake pedals, a feature on vehicles used driver training companies. Vehicle and simulator cost $53,000 and $24,000 will be spent on training drivers.
The remainder of the donation, $98,000, is for bursaries for students going through a variety of trades training and specific certifications such as first aid, hazardous material handling and flagging.
There are 64 bursaries of $750 each in trades training, six $2,500 bursaries for heavy equipment operator students and $35,000 in bursaries ranging from $250 to $1,500 for students working on specific certifications.
“We are committed to providing programming that fills gaps in communities and that supports the future success of our students,” said Burt of how the donation will be used.
The remaining $75,000 of the donation is being held in reserve for a project to be announced later.
The donation is one of a series being made by TransCanada which has been chosen by two prospective liquefied natural gas developers to build pipelines to their projects.
One pipeline is Prince Rupert Gas Transmission destined for the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG project near Prince Rupert and the other is Coastal GasLink meant for the Shell-majority owned LNG Canada project at Kitimat.
Last year, TransCanada announced an ongoing donation through the Breakfast Club of Canada agency to supply breakfasts to school students in northern B.C.
The college acceptance of the TransCanada donation is in contrast to one of $15,000, also for bursaries, made last year by pipeline builder, Enbridge.
It was first accepted by college administrators but then rejected by its board.
Enbridge’s plan to build a pipeline carrying unrefined bitumen from Alberta to a marine terminal at Kitimat for export has been heavily criticized by aboriginal and environmental groups and local governments, contributing to the board’s rejection decision.
Following the board’s rejection, the college began revamping its policies, something that is still underway, said Burt.
And in what could be a change in direction for the college, Burt noted that he’s new (he replaced Denise Henning who left in spring 2014 when the college board rejected the Enbridge donation) and that there are now new board members and a new senior official whose job it is to solicit donations.
“The board is aware of this donation and recognizes the positive outcomes it will have for students,” said Burt.
“Any potential donation has to be assessed individually. We are taking an apolitical approach with respect to this process. This is a significant donation that focuses directly on supporting student success and enabling people in small communities to build the skills they need to pursue education and employment,” he said.