by Michael Hugall
There are new programs at Aurora College for the 2018-2019 school year.
An early childhood education course will be taught in Yellowknife and a practical nursing course is being offered at the college’s Inuvik campus.
Jeff O’Keefe, interim president at the college, said the hope is to offer increased employment opportunities for Northerners.
“Educated early childhood educators are always in demand in the NWT. With the GNWT’s decision to fully fund and implement junior kindergarten across the territory, the need is increasing,” said O’Keefe.
He added the college is hopeful students will flock to these new programs.
“Our hopes and expectations that the interest expressed prior to offering the programs translates into students registering in and completing the courses, and who then become employed in their fields of study,” he said.
A practical nursing diploma will be offered in Inuvik after years of input from the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, said O’Keefe.
There is no word yet on whether the college’s social work diploma and bachelor of education programs will be allowed to accept new students in the future. Whether or not those programs will be reinstated will be announced in the coming weeks as the Department of Education, Culture and Employment releases its recommendations after hosting three community meetings around the the territory following the release of the college’s foundational review in June.
The review recommended moving the college’s headquarters to Yellowknife from Fort Smith and turning the institution into a polytechnic-styled university.
Recommendations will be made public after Aug. 20, said Marina Devine, senior communications advisor with the Department of the Executive and Indigenous Affairs.
She said Education Minister Caroline Cochrane will not be commenting on the government’s recommendations until after that date.
Cochrane cancelled an interview with Yellowknifer earlier this month and deputy education minister Sylvia Haener could not be reached for comment to discuss what was said at three community engagement events from the summer.
Attendees in Fort Smith were highly critical of the review’s finding while Yellowknife attendees were largely supportive.
Cochrane, along with other representatives from the education department held community meetings in Inuvik, Fort Smith and Yellowknife over the summer to gather input from residents on how to change post-secondary education in the territory.
Many people attending the meetings called on the department to reinstate the social work and education programs that were axed by the college prior to the review after the GNWT insisted the college cut $1.89 million from its budget. After much outcry, the budget cuts were put on hold and enrollment to the two programs were frozen pending the outcome of the review.
At the meeting in Yellownife, Cochrane entertained the idea of bringing back both programs.
“It would be a sin if the minister (herself) left the status quo in place. I would be embarrassed to be a resident of the NWT,” said Cochrane, who holds a social work diploma.
“If we don’t look at the programs and see how to improve them we will never address the real problem … Maybe I’m a visionary but I want to remain a visionary.”