Roughly 40 community leaders gathered together at the Lions Hall on Saturday, April 11th to hear a guest presentation from COTR president and CEO David Wallis and his team about the upcoming plans that have been envisioned for students in the Columbia Valley.
The meeting followed on the heels of the April 1st rollout by the college of a new five-year long strategic plan to engage communities with the opportunity to have an enriching education.
“I think the biggest challenge has been waiting to get the framework in place so that we can focus on what’s important,” said Wallis.
“Then, we wanted to make sure that we’re working together. The team I’ve got is very active and their engagement, as opposed to working individually, has been more important than people going off and being stars and doing different things. It’s about recognizing the need to work as a team because we have limited resources and we’ve got to focus on the investment we make so that it brings a return back to the college.”
The plan to recruit students from far and wide began to take shape in late 2013 when the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) formed with 14 members from students, faculty, support staff, middle and senior management along with the Board of Governors to evaluate the needs of everybody and create a show of solidarity
There were also information sessions with citizens held in Fernie, Cranbrook, Kimberley, Golden and Creston.
In total, more than than 200 people attended sessions to provide feedback about ongoing programs and set priorities for the future.
“What came out of the initial consultations with COTR in Invermere, when we had those meetings a year ago, we are looking at developing a full-time program here,” said Doug Clovechok, general manager of COTR Invermere campus.
“Right now, we don’t have a full-time base funded program, so we’re looking at possibilities (such as) health care, tourism recreation management and First Nations programs. There’s lots on the table right now.”
Wallis explained the process to come up with the strategic plan came from consultations internally and externally to ensure communities throughout the valley could get behind the five-year plan by investigating COTR’s history and future by looking at its strengths, weaknesses.
“I want to make sure that students in Invermere understand what COTR is and that we have multiple campuses,” Wallis explained.
“We need to make sure the potential students understand what it is we have to offer and we can counsel them. In the end, it may be that we’re not counselling them to take a program here, but maybe we’re telling them the advantages of going to Calgary to take a program compared to us, so that they can make an informed decision.”
Clovechok added it’s important to address the needs of the Invermere community and to improve the Invermere campus to help serve those needs appropriately.
“I think we want to do two things,” said Clovechok. “We want to provide our own students, here in the valley, an opportunity to stay in the valley. Let’s look at an education that makes sense for them in relationship to the jobs that are available — we live in this amazing, beautiful place and this could be such an international place, whether it’s for tourism or health care — whatever it’s going to be to promote this area internationally, which not only brings in students but also brings in (tourism).”