Dawson Creek, BC – Northern Lights College is set for a year of refocusing efforts firmly on the shortage of skilled trades and labour in the region. There will be substantial changes and additions to programming throughout the College region; the northern third of the province.

“With this budget we are refocusing our efforts. We are in a period of rapid growth in this region but skill shortages, particularly in the oil and gas sector, are limiting the region’s economic development,” said Jim Kassen, Northern Lights College president. “Besides skilled tradesmen and women, expansion in any sector creates the need for other kinds of skills and training as well. The College is redirecting programs and services to address these local shortages as swiftly as we can.”

The provincial government has increased the number of seats the College will deliver and the Board of Governors recently approved a tuition increase to help the College position for future demands on post secondary education in the region. With the additional funds, the College will add a number of programs and staff to support both the new programs and existing programs that have been over-stressed by demand.

Financial aid for students will be increased with an additional $17,000 in student grants.

“We’re adding support and expanding the programs that have strong enrollment and wait lists, as well as adding new programs that regional industry has told us are needed,” said Kassen. “Besides Millwright, Electrical and the Piping Trades, we’ll be taking Oil Field Operator back to Tumbler Ridge. Power Engineering and Welding will be offered in Fort Nelson and Transition to Work will be available in Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge. ”

Enrollment and course offerings will increase in the Early Childhood Education program and Licensed Practical Nursing will be offered again on the Dawson Creek campus in response to demand.

The College is a partner in the Northern Opportunities dual credit program that allows high school students from school districts 59, 60 and 81 to begin post secondary training while still in high school. One example is the expansion of Professional Cook Training. Currently available only on the Dawson Creek campus, it will be offered at North Peace Senior Secondary so that Fort St. John students will have access to the dual credit program too, and more seats will be made available to students in the South Peace as well.

Besides Professional Cook Training, high school students can take several other trades; the Mechanical Technician trades in Instrumentation, Automotive, Commercial Transport and Heavy Duty, as well as Welding, Carpentry, Electrical, Millwright, Oil and Gas Field Operator, the Piping Trades, Power Engineering, Visual Arts and Aircraft Maintenance Engineeering. Students may be bussed between districts so they can take dual credit programs in other centres.

There will be additional support for First Nations students and the College Foundation Director’s position will be increased. The Foundation raises and distributes funds to students throughout the College region and will be administering the Northern Opportunities Endowment as well.

“Our bottom line is to create education and training opportunities that allow the people in this region to train in the region to work in the region,” said Kassen.