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Grant issued to study job training school in Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge is a step closer towards getting a post-secondary school thanks to a $110,900 grant to figure out just what kind of training programs are needed and where the jobs will be.

The money will allow Invest North Fraser to study the current labour market and to set out the options for a post-secondary institute in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows-Mission region.

“By identifying specific labour needs, we will be able to create long-term jobs for families in our region,” said Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson.

The money, from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, was announced at the 2014 education forum at the Arts Centre Theatre on Wednesday, as part of the drive towards getting a multi-program school involving several universities to open in Maple Ridge.

Pitt Meadows and Mission are part of the Invest North Fraser education task force, which is trying to entice universities here.

A report will be done by November and set out three scenarios in which business, industry and education can create a new school and what kind of programs to offer. A forecast of future job needs will be included in the report.

Mayor Ernie Daykin said the drive for a Maple Ridge post-secondary institute is gaining momentum. People are collaborating and working together. The study will require a lot of legwork to contact industry and learn their needs, he said.

It may gain more momentum if a future site is identified, such as on the District of Maple Ridge’s three acres of vacant land on Selkirk Avenue at 226th Street. The district recently OK’d putting the property back on the market to see if a developer would buy it and create an iconic development for the downtown.

But perhaps a new residential-commercial complex could combine with a post-secondary school.

It will take some creativity, Daykin said.

“We love to see it as close to the downtown as possible. We want to see at some point, a multi-institution [university] here and how can we best fit that into our community.”

But it’s a delicate balance between being creative and visionary and also realistic and practical, to create conditions that would attract an investor, while still fulfilling municipal goals.

“I would hope that somebody would come back, there would be mixed-use development and maybe that community space is tied in with post secondary. I think it’s an option that could be looked at. I’m not saying it’s cast in stone.

“It’s a special piece of property. It’s between the two malls. It needs to be something special, outside the box.” Daykin said the district wants the development to have a strong pedestrian connection and street scape.

“We want to be open and flexible and creative on it. We’ve only got one shot at it and it’s got to be a good one.”

Council had also considered the existing Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure property just west of Kanaka Way on Lougheed Highway as a possible location.

About 100 people attended the event in the Arts Centre and Theatre, including representatives from SFU and University of the Fraser Valley and technical schools in the area, as well as the B.C. Technology Industry Association and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

Maple Ridge Coun. Bob Masse, who’s on the task force, said the skills shortage is widespread, quoting one educator who said that the energy sector may need 60 welders, but the province also needs 1,200 social workers.

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