College of the Rockies to add Aboriginal cultural liaison

In light of recent changes to the province's educational curriculum, the College of the Rockies will add a cultural liaison.

In the spirit of continuing the overhaul on the province’s outdated educational system, there will be increased funding at the College of the Rockies and Selkirk College for Aboriginal students studying in the Kootenays.

As part of the one-time funding, the $75,000 denomination for the College of the Rockies will go towards hiring an Indigenous cultural liaison who will develop and deliver services and supports for Aboriginal students while examining how services and supports for Aboriginal students can be enhanced.

“College of the Rockies looks forward to the opportunity to further enhance the experience of our learners through the addition of an Indigenous cultural liaison,” David Walls, president and CEO of the College of the Rockies, said in a press release last week. “This liaison will explore ways to enhance our services and supports and will facilitate culturally meaningful activities for the benefit of both our Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.”

Selkirk College will use the funding to develop an introductory course on regional Indigenous languages, cultures and perspectives to complement the existing Gathering Place Elders program. The funding is part of more than $1 million provided to 14 public post-secondary institutions for new and expanded programs that will help ensure they are welcoming environments for Aboriginal students.

The goal of increasing these funds is to increase the number of credentials awarded to Aboriginal learners by 75 per cent by 2020-21. In 2013-14, 3,241 credentials were awarded to Aboriginals, which is an increase of 23 per cent, or 607, since 2009-10.

Doug Clovechok, manager of the Invermere campus for the College of the Rockies, said this increase in funding is a great demonstration by the government indicating the importance of First Nations education across the province.

“There’s a huge opportunity in terms of jobs in this province,” he said. “We’re without a question the leading economy and I think that just demonstrates how seriously the provincial government is about working with Aboriginal people.”

Clovechok said that, in Invermere, they have been working with the Akisqnuk and Shuswap First Nations on a number of different projects that both add to their development as learners, but also as contributors to the community. One such program includes the Discovery to Trades program, which has led to students learning new skills involved in the trades industry.

“While you’re learning, you’re actually building something for your community and that’s something those kids will be involved in the rest of their lives,” he said. “That’s the power that these programs can have.”

While many throughout the province will welcome the announcement, Clovechok said he sees it more as a welcomed opportunity that will have measurable and impactful results on students rather than an overdue conclusion.

“It’s certainly not a handout,” he said. “It’s a hand up, and anything that the college can do to help facilitate programming that will benefit Aboriginal students, we’re there. We always have been there. What this just gives us is some more tools to further enhance what we’re doing.”