It was a pressing priority for Advanced Education, Skills and Training Minister Melanie Mark to get out early in her mandate and engage with students, faculty and staff at all 25 public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia.
“We have amazing educators at our colleges, institutes and universities that are educating and training the innovators of tomorrow who in turn will shape our lives, communities and province,” Mark said. “It was imperative for me to visit all our public post-secondary institutions to engage, listen and learn as the new minister.”
The 4,800-kilometre tour over three weeks kicked off at Camosun College on Aug. 8, 2017, in Victoria with an announcement to eliminate tuition for Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning programs. The tour wrapped up on Aug. 29 with a visit to Northwest Community College in Terrace that included a stop at the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art.
“Everyone was appreciative that our government made the time to embrace the innovative work occurring in all corners of our province. I am so pleased I was able to start important conversations about the way forward. Many people just wanted to be heard. It was truly a privilege to meet with so many students and inspiring to hear about their aspirations, hopes and dreams,” Mark added. “I can’t say thank you enough to all the students, faculty, staff and leaders for a warm welcome at every stop and being so generous of their time and expertise.”
At each public post-secondary institution, Mark had the opportunity to hear directly from students, faculty and staff about trades, health care, Indigenous, culinary and quantum physics programs to name a few.
Mark concluded: “Students also told me about the challenges they are facing. The common themes I heard were around student debt, housing and mental health. These are pressure points our government is committed to addressing.
“I am taking everything people told me back to Victoria so that Premier John Horgan and I can continue to advocate and make the best decisions moving forward to help students thrive and succeed, and ultimately improve their quality of life.”
Before the tour started, the province reduced interest rates for provincial student loans by 2.5% on Aug. 1, 2017, with the goal of eliminating interest altogether.
In the coming months, government will continue to remove barriers to affordable and accessible education and training.