Inuvik Twin-Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler is asking what the plan is to restore programs at Aurora College’s Inuvik campus while the GNWT continues its march towards transforming the institution into a Polytechnic University.
“This is the first capital budget of this Assembly,” she said in her Oct. 21 Member’s Statement. “It is the largest capital estimates ever tabled. Many of these large infrastructure projects are carryover from the past years. Many times when we have these large infrastructure projects, there are very low percentage of NWT residents working on these projects or are the main contractors of these projects.
“What concerns me is the fact that, over the years, schools have had to make tough decisions on what programs their students have with the budgets that they’re provided. The teacher’s salaries go up and the programs seem to be lost. I’ve seen most of the CTS courses in my community be cut, which would include the carpentry or shop classes I remember, welding, auto mechanics.
“In a place like Inuvik these classes may only happen if we get a teacher who can teach them while also teaching some of the core classes like math, science, English. In the small communities, you’re lucky to have any of those programs at all.
Noting the campus has lost several key programs for adult education recently, including the Environment and Natural Resources program as well as the Recreational Leadership program, Semmler asked Education Minister R.J. Simpson to commit to re-establishing the Introductory Trades programs.
“I don’t get too much into the operations of the college and what they offer on a regular basis, but I can say that delivery of trades programming in the Beaufort Delta is one of the priorities of that campus,” said Simpson in response. “I do appreciate bringing some attention to the campus in Inuvik because I believe it is under-utilized and we can do more. We can expand. That is the impetus behind this entire transformation, so that those types of programs that lead people into the workforce can be delivered where they need to be delivered.
“I can’t commit to making any programming changes, especially in light of COVID, where things like trades programming especially have really been curtailed because of the limitations placed on the college by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer.”
Semmler noted the transition towards a Polytechnic University did not mean the rest of the college system needed to be put on hold or reviewed. She then asked what the long term plan is for the Inuvik campus to build capacity for more tradespeople in the territory.
“I don’t have a long-term plan right now. That’s what we’re working on,” responded Simpson. “There has recently been a couple of discussion papers released, one on areas of specialization. One of the proposed areas of specialization is trades, skilled trades, and technology, so similar to what the Member is talking about. Right now, it is tough to expand and transform at the same time.”
Semmler then asked if there was a short-term plan for the Inuvik campus, noting the campus is in operation and running classes right now. She asked what the courses would look like in the fall of 2021.
Simpson said he would provide Semmler with a list of the programming currently offered over the upcoming winter, but re-emphasized that Covid-19 had put serious limits on what the campus could do in regards to classes.
“I know that the JK-12 schools are back in, but I can’t say the same for adult programming,” he said. “Right now, it’s mostly distance. As for fall 2021, that is, again, dependent on the state of the pandemic, and so those plans are being worked on. Without knowing what state we’re going to be in and what the orders are going to say, it’s really hard to tell at this point.”