Local leaders in town are taking action on expanding post-secondary education opportunities in Vanderhoof.
Around 50 people gathered for a community workshop on May 5 in the McLeod School conference room, including representatives from First Nations, government, social agencies and industry.
The workshop kicked off with presentations from current Nechako Valley Educators including Eugene Marks, the Director of Instruction, from School District #91, Dr. Blanca Schorcht, the Regional Chair of South-Central University of Northern BC and John Bowman, President of the College of New Caledonia (CNC) and Maureen Mallais, Regional Director of CNC.
Nate Bello, the former mayor of Quesnel also did a presentation on “the Quesnel experience’ in which he told the story of how Quesnel went about successfully expanding its post-secondary education opportunities.
Small discussion groups were then held in which those in attendance brainstormed ideas on the vision for post-secondary education in the Nechako Valley and how to go about realizing the vision.
Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen says he was very encouraged by the workshop.
“It was a huge success,” he said.
“I was very impressed by the number of people that came – we sent about 60 invites and close to 50 people attended – that to me was just immense to see that there are that many people in our community that were interested in post-secondary education,” he said.
He added that when he ran for election one of his key focuses was looking at the opportunities to diversify the community and the economy.
“Logging and the trees – as good as they have been to us over the years we can’t be guaranteed that in the future so we need to make sure we diversify as much as we can.
“The only way you can ensure that you’re going to be as recession proof as possible is to have an educated community,” he said.
District staff are looking through the ideas brought forward from the brainstorming sessions before moving forward with starting a committee to spearhead the cause.
The meeting was the first stage of what’s likely to be a relatively lengthy process.
“You don’t go from where we are now to success overnight – we heard in the Quesnel situation that it was a two year process,” he said.