Monday, February 1, 2010

Community input - summary of community partners' workshops at New Westminster and Coquitlam

Community input is an important part of our strategic planning process. We are gathering this input primarily through three face-to-face meetings with community partners. We have also placed advertisements in local newspapers to invite the public to provide ideas via an online survey or by phone.

On January 28 and 29, morning workshops at the New Westminster and David Lam campuses featured lively discussion with community partners from business, education, health, and community sectors. A third workshop will take place in Maple Ridge on February 4th.

I want to thank all the Douglas employees who volunteered to facilitate group discussions at these events - you've done an excellent job.

I'll distribute a detailed report in the coming weeks. Until then, here is a summary of the New Westminster and Coquitlam partners' workshops. --Scott

Highlights from Jan 29 and Jan 30 Community Partners' Workshops - by Lori Kittelberg and Leah Poulton from the Communications and Marketing Office

Scott McAlpine hosted the events as representatives of over 35 different organizations and businesses filled the two boardrooms to share their thoughts with the College.

BBA student Anna Solnickova, our Olympic torchbearer, started off each event with the student perspective and her singular story of courage and a winning attitude in the face of adversity. Scott presented an overview of the College, highlighting important changes over the past few years. Participants broke into groups to discuss three questions:

1. What’s working between your organization and Douglas?
2. What needs to be improved?
3. What new initiatives would you like to see in the future at Douglas?

Some key themes emerged:

What’s working

Quality of graduates: applied programs at Douglas are producing top-notch graduates equipped with job-ready skills.

Joint initiatives: Community partnerships, such as the Centre for Health and Community Partnerships, are being noticed. Participants encouraged Douglas to nurture these connections.

Public profile: Douglas is visible around the Tri-Cities community and is seen as accessible and comprehensive when compared to other colleges.

Communication: the creation of the Office for New Students was noted as having improved communications with local secondary schools. Relationships with high schools made through our Regional Student Transitions Coordinator are successfully “smoothing the transitions of student entrance into our institution.”

Faculty-student relationships: our reputation is excellent; one of the College’s strengths is helping students transition to post-secondary education.

What needs improvement

External communication: Participants would like to see: increased profile for College experts; more direct communication with all stakeholders about College news, events, continuing education and other relevant information; more "good-news” stories in the media; more face-to-face, one-on-one connections where our stories get told.

Pathways for qualified immigrants: professional, qualified immigrants are often unable to find work in their fields once they arrive in Canada. Douglas should look at how it can help fast-track these individuals through any required upgrading and into the workforce, as well as provide support.

Support of Aboriginal learners: the workforce needs qualified Aboriginal professionals, and Douglas should become a leader in training and supporting these individuals.

Accessibility: Getting into the College can “be very tricky to navigate” for people using wheelchairs. A more physically welcoming set-up, along with community days where non-students are encouraged to visit the College could be helpful.

Retraining for professionals: there needs to be more information about opportunities offered by Continuing Education and the Training Group in the community.

Ideas for new initiatives

Participants want to see more community partnerships with businesses and service organizations, to take College initiatives into the community, e.g., Douglas career fairs in public libraries.

Community events: plan more evening events open to both students and community members. These could feature speakers from within the College or the community, and provide networking opportunities.

Hybrid or online courses: especially important for the large number of working professionals in the community who are looking to upgrade their education and skills.

Shared professional development: PD opportunities open to both Douglas employees and staff from community businesses and organizations, especially in management and leadership skills.

At the end of each workshop, Dr. McAlpine emphasized that he is strongly committed to the community. “What we really, really want to do is better connect with you,” he said. "We want to help all of you to do your jobs. If we help you do a good job, then we're doing our jobs."

Facilitators for Partners' workshops:
Robert Buller, Lin Langley, Hazel Postma, Susan Smythe, Kathy Denton, Karen Maynes, Ted James, Gary Tennant, Dean Howie, Blaine Jensen, Piotr Kisiel

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