Regional Colleges Support Rural Students and Industry
Carlton Trail College
Located in Saskatchewan’s ‘Iron Triangle’, Carlton Trail College has been supporting the local manufacturing and mining industry for a long time. With its main campus in Humboldt, the college offers post-secondary and skills training that assists the labour market it serves. “We’re in the potash belt, and in the heart of the manufacturing sector,” says Shelley Romanyszyn-Cross, Carlton Trail’s CEO. “Our programs serve that sector, as well as local health care services and more.”
The college engages with businesses, industry and organizations on a direct level to ensure they are delivering what the region needs. “We pay close attention to labour market information and align our plans accordingly,” says Romanyszyn-Cross. “We’re flexible and nimble, and once a need is identified we work to see how we can best meet it.” The college stays in continuous dialogue with employers and is always open to hear from them with ideas. Carlton Trail can recommend options, suggest programs and customize courses to meet specific needs.
Carlton Trail’s communication with industry has led to important relationships with major employers like BHP. BHP, the mining giant, is working in the Jansen area and chose Carlton Trail to administer its high-school scholarship program. In the last seven years, the program has handed out almost $500,000 to regional students. The college has also created meaningful partnerships with many First Nations to deliver skills training and educational programs, many of which are delivered out of Carlton Trail College’s Four Winds Learning Centre in Punnichy. They also offer an online training program for the province’s volunteer fire departments, training volunteers at 39 departments. “For us, the important thing is that we’re responsive to the needs of students, employers, industry and the region,” says Romanyszyn-Cross. “We’re here to provide the education our area needs so our learners can stay where they are and be successful.”
Cumberland College, with main campuses in Nipawin, Melfort and Tisdale, serves the northeast part of our province. The college provides a wide variety of training initiatives through Continuing Studies, designed to support the local economy and labour market. “Our training is designed to be relevant and responsive to the emerging trends of industry and employers within our region,” says Brenda Mellon, Manager of Marketing and Continuing Studies. “A variety of short-term training programs are delivered to ensure the local workforce is safe, current and professional.”
The college customizes programming to meet the specific needs of local business or industries. “Training may include credit programming or industry credit where we take bits and pieces to create a program tailored to meet the needs of that employer,” says Mellon. “The training is set up so that it works best for the employer and employees, be it on campus or off-site. And, Cumberland College is also open to working with employers on applied research projects.”
Cumberland College employs local programmers that work directly with employers to fill training gaps. Our staff are also aware of funding options available for trainees as well as employers. “Lately, we have had a number of employers utilize the Canada-Saskatchewan Job Grant that assists with covering up to two-thirds of the training costs,” says Mellon.
“A few years ago, the health authority identified a particular shortage of certified Continuing Care Assistants so we worked together to develop programming for local people to gain employment in the region,” says Mellon. The college ensured learners, some already working in health care, had access to the training needed to fill the demand. And, the health authority supported programming by providing the facility for classroom instruction, IT support and access to health care facilities.
Last year, Cumberland College also established an Agriculture Advisory Council with members representing agricultural communities, businesses and industries throughout the region. “With guidance and support from the council, Cumberland College will offer a new one-year Agricultural Sciences Certificate in partnership with Lakeland College in 2020,” says Mellon. “Students will gain valuable theory and the practical hands-on skills essential for modern agriculture operations. It’s another way we grow skilled, in-demand labour in the area.”
Great Plains College
With a service area that runs from Swift Current, south to the U.S. border, west to the Alberta border, and as far north as Warman, Great Plains College takes great care to ensure students and industry get the skills they need to succeed. “We work very closely with industries and organizations to align our safety training and post-secondary programming with local demand,” says Fritz Eckstein, Region Manager of Kindersley Campus. “Over the years, we have developed strong relationships and partnerships that help inform how our programming can meet their employment demands and also help their current employees be safer, more productive and knowledgeable.”
Great Plains College also provides students with real-world connections. Their Heavy Equipment Operator program works closely with rural municipalities, towns, and organizations to offer training with practical hands-on experience. Students practice their skills in places like park developments, road building, and land reclamation. Not only does it give students experience, it also enables them to make valuable connections with industry and partners.
“We are here to work together with business and industry on solutions,” says Eckstein. “In addition to being able to establish hands-on programs to meet employment demand, we have mobile equipment to set up learning where it’s needed, classroom space for traditional training and equipment simulators for learning. If training is what your organization or industry needs, we can help.”
At Northlands College, with its main campus in La Ronge, serves a massive area in Saskatchewan. “We serve students living in the entire northern half of the province,” says Jamie Chester, Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator. “Our student population is very much rural, and remote.” The college works hard to ensure its students, and the industries in the north, get the skills they need.
“Our programs—in everything from mining and health to trades and university—are developed to support the needs of the north,” says Russel Mercredi, Manager, Post-Secondary Programs. Northlands College works closely with business and industry to offer programs that support their needs, and offer students training that will lead to jobs. The college, with the local mining industry, uncovered a need for diamond drilling helpers in the north. Northlands created a program to train people for the job, and eight students enrolled last October. Today, nearly all are working in the field. “The industry provided the trainer, and we provided the administration, facility and equipment,” says Mercredi. “Everyone benefitted from it.”
To create and maintain their industry relationships, Northlands has regular, formal community engagement meetings. This constant, open communication has led to longstanding partnerships with business and industry. “We can’t overcommunicate with our partners,” says Mercredi. “We’re open for business, and we want to grow our connections as much as we can.”
This commitment to partnership has built many successful programs over the years, including Power Line Technician (PLT) training with SaskPower, and the Nursing program with the University of Saskatchewan. “Our PLT program helps students get into apprenticeship with industry. We’re four years into it, and our graduates have an almost-full employment rate,” says Mercredi. “It’s been so successful that we’re opening more seats. This program allows local people to learn and stay in the north, getting a good job at the end. And industry gets trained employees where they need them.” They have found similar success with the Nursing program, where students earn their degree in the north. It was created to build nursing capacity where it’s needed, and it works. “It’s another invaluable partnership,” says Guy Penney, President and CEO at Northlands. “Our good relationships lead to good things, and we’re always open for more.”
North West College
North West College CEO Jay Notay joined the college just over a year ago and he sees how engaging with businesses and industries benefits the region North West serves. “I worked in both Ontario and British Columbia before coming to Saskatchewan,” says Notay. “We’re building on what has already be done and growing our engagement strategies, while keeping a close eye on labour market needs.” The college, not unlike the other six regional colleges, serves a large, mostly rural area. Their region covers 44,000 square kilometres, with 23 service points outside of the main campuses in North Battleford and Meadow Lake. “Our college is more than just a college,” says Notay. “It’s a way to develop and grow economic opportunities for the people who live here.”
The college has made business development and engagement a priority. This new entrepreneurial outreach is building relationships with organizations to identify where the college can drive economic development. Not only are they reaching out to business and industry, but also to municipalities in the region. “We’re working to identify where we can support and grow labour market talent, especially when it comes to First Nations and immigration,” says Notay. The North Battleford area has been identified as one of the top small cities for immigration in Canada, and the college sees the need to support newcomers to the area as they build their careers. “Domestic rural populations are shrinking, and immigration is one strategy to help fill the gap. We see this, and we’re working with partners on how we can support our newcomers,” says Notay.
The college has built many relationships throughout the area that support the economy and the culture. Their partnership with Robwel Ltd. has created a seamless transition for plumbing and pipefitting students to get the training they need with a job at the end, and Robwell gets well-trained employees that are job ready. The college also created a “Forest to Fork” program in partnership and collaboration with local First Nations to gain skills in sustainability with an eye on their culture and community. Both programs have been a resounding success to date, and a testament to what North West offers. “Our college is here to support and grow the area we serve,” says Notay. “That commitment is visible in everything we do.”
Parkland College serves Yorkton and the neighbouring rural communities and First Nations in the east-central part of the province. Among the programs it offers to learners, the college sees its health care, trades and technology programming as vital to local businesses. “Health care is a vital service for Yorkton and the neighbouring rural communities. We offer a four-year Nursing degree, two-year Practical Nursing diploma, and one-year Continuing Care Assistant certificate,” says Brendan Wagner, Coordinator, Corporate & Internal Engagement at the college. “These programs give local learners the chance to train close to home and, in many cases, begin their careers at health care facilities in communities across the Parkland region.”
As well, the Trades and Technology Centre in Yorkton provides students the hands-on skills and knowledge employers demand in many fields, from welding to mechanical trades. Two levels of power engineering training offer opportunities for employment in potash mines, canola processing plants, health centres, and other large facilities.
Parkland College reviews its programming on a regular basis to evaluate whether demands are being met and to determine new areas of opportunity. In fact, the Trades and Technology Centre was constructed in 2014-15 partly in response to the needs of local industrial partners. “We also deliver a variety of shorter safety training and professional development courses, with many of them available on demand or customized to the specific needs of a business,” says Wagner. The college regularly consults with industry representatives and local governments to determine their needs and to come up with a local solution. Parkland College leverages its brokering agreements and partnerships with other institutions across Canada to find the right training for the situation.
The Trades and Technology Centre (TTC) in Yorkton is an example of the College’s responsiveness and the value of its partnerships. With the support of the City of Yorkton and the Government of Saskatchewan, the College undertook a $5 million capital campaign to fund its portion of the project—the first of its kind for a regional college in Saskatchewan. “It was an incredible feat for a community and region of this size,” says Wagner. In all, almost 50 businesses and community organizations contributed to the campaign and many of the donors have benefited from TTC-trained welders, electricians, agricultural equipment technicians, power engineers, and more.
With 5,000 learners across six campuses, Southeast College offers full-time, part-time and short courses that not only educate students but support local business and industry. The college teaches everything from adult basic education to post-secondary programs in areas such as health care and trades, plus university courses, customized training and certifications. “Our students get to learn where they live, and often can keep working while they study,” says Jeff Richards. “They can be with their families and once they graduate, can find work locally. It’s wonderful to see our students thrive at home.”
Southeast College does more that just teach students. They also work with businesses in the southeast to offer training to not only fill jobs, but to also grow skills for employees. “We help business and industry build their employees’ knowledge, often through short, custom courses,” says Richards. “For example, construction companies can find people with the entry-level skills they need. However, the company will struggle to find mid-level or senior people, like foremen or superintendents. We help by providing the training so that employees can grow within an organization. And, best of all, it all happens locally.” Whatever the industry, Southeast College can help create training that works for companies and employees.
The college has also built relationships with Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), Saskatchewan Association of Urban Municipalities (SUMA), and the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. With SARM and SUMA, the college has created training modules to help municipal employees learn the skills they need to their jobs and move up as their career progresses. With the Chamber of Commerce, Southeast College has designed training for people to build their business careers at home. “Our Chamber program is available across the province, helping people learn skills in customer service, management and how to deal with issues like workplace bullying,” says Richards. “Training like this really helps people in rural areas get the training they need.”