Province announces $11.6 million in funding for indigenous residence at CNC, upgrades

Advanced Education, Skills & Training Minister Melanie Mark made a slew of funding announcements for the College of New Caledonia on Tuesday, for programs and upgrades that she said will provide greater student opportunities throughout the region.

The Minister announced a long-awaited $5.2 million renovation of the CNC campus in Vanderhoof, as well as $2.6 million for a new housing residence for indigenous students and $1.3 million for facility upgrades for the college's Quesnel campus. The Quesnel upgrades will include a new high-pressure steam boiler for students in the power-engineering program.

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The renovations to CNC's campus in Vanderhoof follow the Spring 2017 purchase of a new property to replace the current building housing CNC's programs in the town. CNC's current campus in Vanderhoof, housed in an old hospital, has served students for more than 30 years.

Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen, who attended the Tuesday announcement at CNC's Prince George campus, has seen his own children leave Vanderhoof to pursue post-secondary education. Two of his sons enrolled in the carpentry program at CNC, and commuted to and from Prince George in order to attend.

Thiessen said the new campus is essential to the community, which is seeing an increased demand for skilled tradespeople. The current campus does not have the facilities to accommodate workspace for trades students.

"We have a resource industry that is crying for welders, machinists, those kinds of people. We just had Nechako Mechanical that is starting an expansion to their plant in Vanderhoof and will be employing over 200 people. They're going to be adding close to 100 new jobs. So we need to reach out and satisfy those," Thiessen said.

"The new campus will open opportunities for CNC to bring more courses and programs important to the students and communities in the Nechako region," said CNC president Henry Reiser.

Construction for the new campus is expected to be underway by fall of this year, with completion expected in early 2019.

The new residence for indigenous students will accommodate first-year students attending the campus. Construction for the new residence will begin in early 2019, with occupancy expected for the fall semester of the same year. The new residence will have space for 12 furnished dorm rooms for students, a suite for an Elder, a shared kitchen and living areas and an area for cultural practices, teachings and activities.

"The housing is going to be purpose built, culturally relevant and it will enable and empower indigenous learners and students to thrive in a supportive environment," Mark said.

"To me this is reconciliation in action."

Approximately 20 per cent of CNC's total student population in the region is indigenous. Like the domestic student population overall, aboriginal enrolment at CNC has been steadily decreasing in recent years, from 1,838 in 2013/2014 to 1,367 in 2016/2017.

"Finding safe and affordable housing is often a challenge for Indigenous students who have moved to Prince George to pursue education," Reiser said.

"The funding from the Province will allow us to remove one more barrier that exists for many Indigenous students."

The upgrades to CNC's Quesnel campus are part of a plan that was initially announced in 2017 at a cost of $3.8 million according to a government media statement. The scope of these upgrades has since increased to include an expanded computer lab, a new welding lab, a new atrium and a larger yard. As a result, the overall cost of the project has increased to $5 million.

The new high-pressure steam boiler is required to meet provincial standards for Class 4 power engineering training.

Construction for the Quesnel facility is expected to be underway by Summer 2018, with completion planned for the Summer of 2019.

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