Monday, March 25, 2013
At the President’s Reception on March 14 I spoke to a group of people who have helped build Douglas College into what it is today – our Honorary Fellows, alumni, faculty emeriti, past presidents, and the Alumni and Foundation Boards.
I told them about the significant events and developments at Douglas as we move forward to serving the needs of more and more British Columbians. Here is what I said.
The post-secondary climate in BC: some background
British Columbia and Canada will soon be facing a skilled labour shortage. This is well documented in the BC Skills for Growth strategy, the BC Jobs Plan, Rick Miner’s People Without Jobs, Jobs without People, and most recently, in the Research Universities Council of BC Opportunity Agenda.
We are facing labour shortages in occupations that require post-secondary credentials that range from trades certificates and diplomas to baccalaureate and graduate degrees. In fact, 78 percent of the new jobs in the next 10 years will require post-secondary education. Although skills shortages are expected to be significant in trades, the most acute shortages are projected to be in occupations that require more advanced education.
As this skills shortage approaches, post-secondary transition rates and high school graduation rates are not high enough. The proportion of high school students graduating with an Academic GPA is not much greater than 50 percent. Admissibility to a research university remains low, approximately 34 percent provincially. For those who lack the interest or ability to transition to post-secondary, future employment prospects are increasingly bleak and will remain so unless they obtain further education.
Access to post-secondary education is now about individuals being able to transition back to post-secondary as much as it is about the availability of post-secondary spaces. This problem is particularly acute among historically underserved populations (persons of Aboriginal origins, persons with disabilities, mid-career learners).
The bottom line
The post-secondary system is not graduating enough students to fill the available jobs. Both the Research Universities Council of BC and BC Colleges have called for thousands of new spaces to be opened in B.C. post-secondary education over the next several years. This is to support increasing population, increasing post-secondary transition, and an increasing number of returning (“second career”) students.
With 65 percent of the population of B.C. in the Lower Mainland, and with Douglas College located in the heart of the Lower Mainland, many of these new spaces need to be here.
What is Douglas doing to serve the need?
Douglas is growing to serve the student need. Our five-year strategic plan (2010-2015) calls for a growth of 1,350 FTE over the duration of the plan – a 21 percent increase over the base year.
We were to achieve this with new programs and growth in existing programs.
We were to achieve this along with a robust international education strategy, superior teaching quality, experiential learning, and a commitment to environmental stewardship, social responsibility and fiscal accountability.
We were to achieve this with employee, student, and community engagement.
We were to achieve this as an access-based, learner-pathway institution.
We were to achieve this without new government funding.
So, we added 10 post-degree diplomas for returning students. We doubled spaces in the Sport Science degree and diploma programs. We added an innovative Bachelor of Performing Arts degree, a Music Technology Certificate program, and are awaiting approval of an applied psychology degree. We have expanded opportunities on many fronts.
And the students responded.
We have record numbers of student applications.
We have record numbers of students at our information sessions.
We have record international enrolments – over 1,400 students at present.
Furthermore, Douglas has record enrolments overall and is now looking forward to a potential growth not of 1,350 domestic FTE, but of 1,600, by 2016.
In addition, and significantly, we are supporting more students through the Douglas College Foundation than ever before.
I am proud to say that Douglas College is well on its way to being the largest and most progressive baccalaureate degree granting College in the province of British Columbia, and that we are doing it it without new government funding.
We can’t stop here
No society or economy has ever advanced based on a less well-educated population. Social change and economic progress depend, in fact, on education. B.C. is not unique. Douglas, as a publicly funded post-secondary education and training institution, needs to continue to advance individuals, facilitate the pursuit of students’ dreams and aspirations, and through this, to advance society.
We need to continue to advance new programs. And we have several in the works – more degrees, certificates and diplomas in areas of high student and labour market demand.
We need to continue and expand our support for students.
We need to continue to grow to serve the needs of the people of British Columbia and beyond.
We have the programs, the demand, and the land needed to expand.
And in this, we will continue to need your help and support as members of the community, not only to tell our story, but to take pride in what you have all been a part of – creating your college of doing and discovery, the largest and the best baccalaureate degree granting College in British Columbia.