How the community came together in providing education for rural areas

It takes a village
The School of Energy at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) welcomed the first-ever graduating class of a remotely delivered program in Kitimat. The graduating class of 2018 Refrigeration Mechanic Foundation Program included 9 dual-credit high school students, adult students, and members of the Haisla and Nisga’a Nations. This program was the result of many members of the local community coming together for a better future.

The power of industry connections
While a joint venture between BCIT, Haisla Nation Council, Coast Mountain School District #82, and Kitimat Valley Institute, this program was initiated because of one very important question.

Geoff McKay, District Technical Skills Administrator for Coast Mountain School District #82 in Terrace was conversing with industry members in the Kitimat and Terrace area about the demand for refrigeration trade. He was asked if he could introduce a refrigeration foundation program to the area to fulfill industry needs.

Without hesitation, the first resource that came to mind was BCIT as the institution had a wealth of knowledge and industry networks that made it the perfect education partner.

Geoff came to the BCIT campus and spoke with Glen Walsh, Chief Instructor, and Brian Buckley, Associate Dean, and asked if there was an opportunity for BCIT to support. Both stated yes!

BCIT was thrilled about the opportunity to bring its Burnaby-based Refrigeration Mechanic Foundation Program to high school students and adult students in remote areas of British Columbia (BC). Over the next three-months, BCIT partnered with the Coast Mountain School District and the Haisla Nation Council. Together, they utilized their wealth of knowledge, industry networks, and resources to bring this program to life in Kitimat, along with funding provided by the Industry Training Authority (ITA).

BCIT recruited John Goodwill, a retired refrigeration mechanic residing in Terrace, as the program instructor. John had a desire to give back to the community, so he kindly relocated temporarily to the Burnaby campus for an intense four-week training from BCIT. John’s training included Instructional Skills Workshops and opportunities to shadow experienced BCIT instructors teaching the same program.

To ensure John had the resources he needed to be successful in his teaching role back at Kitimat, Mark Buller, retired BCIT refrigeration instructor, offered to provide support in Terrace during the first two weeks of the program in February.

Instructors who go above and beyond
Throughout the 7-months of the program, it was John that made it possible for all the students to arrive in class each day. Many students live in Terrace so commuting to Kitimat was challenging. John believed in the program and the students so much, he went out of his way to drive a van to pick-up and drop-off the students in Terrace every day.

A better future starts with BCIT
Graduates of this program received a BCIT certificate and credit towards their first year apprenticeship technical training. Two members of the graduating class were in grade 11 when the program started and are now finishing grade 12 with the BCIT credential already in their possession. The remaining graduates have found employment with local companies and plan to continue pursuit of the Refrigeration Mechanic Red Seal designation.

What’s next?
With the success of this program, there are ongoing discussions between BCIT and its partner organizations in northwestern BC to run similar programs to benefit high school students, Indigenous groups, and citizens of the local area. BCIT is committed to enriching the lives of people in remote areas of the province by running programs that carry transferable credits and credentials.

Listen to Brian Buckley, BCIT Associate Dean, share this story on CKNW Jon McComb Show.

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