Yesterday we met with community partners from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows at the beautiful Maple Ridge Arts Centre and Theatre, to seek their input into our strategic planning process. I was impressed with their ideas as much as by their energy and optimism. I believe that all the College facilitators came away with a strong feeling that Douglas College needs to do more to serve these growing communities.
In the coming weeks, I'll distribute a full report summarizing the proceedings of this workshop as well as the community partners' workshops we hosted at New Westminster and Coquitlam. Until then, here is a summary of the Ridge-Meadows event. --Scott
Highlights from Feb 4 Community Partners' Workshop in Ridge-Meadows - by Sean Kelly from the Communications and Marketing Office
Perception and awareness
We heard that our lack of physical presence contributes to a lack of awareness of the College - e.g., low awareness that Douglas offers degrees. Most participants were unaware that the Douglas College Training Group has an office in Haney, although the Coquitlam-based Self Employment Program is well known and respected.
For many young people, college is simply not their first choice. They dream of getting out of town, and the idea of moving away from home to go to a big university is appealing and may carry a higher status. There is the idea that "you can always get into Douglas". However, it's equally true that for financial reasons, College needs to be the choice for many young people.
We heard that our Office for New Students is doing an excellent job of building good relations with secondary schools.
Geography and demographics
We heard clearly that getting to Coquitlam for classes isn't as convenient as we might wish. Residents perceive the commute over the Pitt River Bridge into Coquitlam as a significant hassle and psychological barrier. Transit service is poor as well.
On the other hand, the Golden Ears Bridge has been well received and is well used - the toll is a non-issue. Residents routinely drive over the bridge to shop and do business across the river.
Ridge-Meadows is one of the fastest growing regions in Metro Vancouver, with an inflow of new people who tend to be well educated. The population is highly entrepreneurial - there is a large number of small businesses in the area.
Offer information sessions and career fairs right in the community, instead of expecting residents to travel to Coquitlam, which is inconvenient.
More partnerships with high schools, where high school students can take some College credit courses.
There may be opportunities to send our students to internships/co-op placement with businesses and institutions in Ridge-Meadows.
Do more to serve entrepreneurs needing business education. One idea is for a non-EI version (i.e., user pay) of a Self-Employment Program.
Perhaps the College could get involved with offering continuing education credits for various professionals such as doctors and lawyers.
It would be good to get some Nursing education in the community for those who want to work towards that career but have limited time to commute.
There is an opportunity to reach out to the parents and mature adults who are looking to move into a second career.
We need more flexible and accessible options, more online options.
There is an opportunity for programming around key components of the local economy, such as urban agriculture, tourism and natural resources.