Top stories 2014: Boost for Maple Ridge college campaign

Study should be done in new year to see if this area warrants campus

The campaign to bring a college of some kind to Maple Ridge should get a boost in the new year when the labour market study is released.

The information it contains should put the final touches in a year-long campaign to bring a post-secondary institute, possibly one creating a blend of programs offered by universities, to this area.

“It showed a lot of what we already knew,” said Maple Ridge Coun. Bob Masse.

Maple Ridge doesn’t have the same percentage of its population attaining higher education as other communities.

What’s known is that there’s a direct relationship between the chances of students going to college or university and whether there’s a post-secondary institute nearby.

Another negative effect of that is once young people leave Maple Ridge to go to school elsewhere, often they don’t come back.

“We’re way behind other communities in Metro Vancouver,” Masse said.

He is part of a task force involving Mission and Pitt Meadows that’s trying to bring post-secondary schooling to the area.

Last year, Invest North Fraser used a $111,000 grant from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation to pay for the labour market study.

The money allowed 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.

Masse said he wants to make his case to the new Minister of Advanced Education Andrew Wilson, appointed in December, as soon as possible.

Once the study is out, the key to securing provincial or private dollars for a school is to show that Maple Ridge, or Pitt Meadows or Mission, can provide the venue for the institute.

“What we want to do is be the solution to whatever the biggest demand is,” Masse explained.

Once possible concept is creating an umbrella program, such as at Universities at Shady Grove in the state of Maryland.

Nine universities work together to bring programs under one roof. Students there can either take courses from one institute or blend different programs. On the other hand, a new school could just focus on developing skilled and educated workers in one particularly area or occupation.

Masse said previously that 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.

The task force, which includes representation from colleges and universities in Metro Vancouver, has only been in existence for a year and he expects it to disband once it identifies its goal and conveys that to the provincial government.

But he admits, he’s a bit frustrated at the snail’s pace.

“With the work that’s been done, we should be in a position to take that information,” and make an overall recommendation of the type of school that should be located in Maple Ridge.

 

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