Plans for a private, non-profit college in Valemount move forward

Lifelong Learning in the Rocky Mountains

Dianne St. Jean
Lifelong Learning in the Rocky Mountains

New and unique learning opportunities are coming to Valemount and the Robson Valley.

Plans are in the works for a private, non-profit post-secondary school that will provide multi-month certificate programs in mountain outdoor recreation tourism, First Nation cultural tourism, rural entrepreneurship and small business management, and tourism administration. 

The post-secondary school, which will be known as Valemount College, is the project of Valemount Learning Society (VLS). VLS has been providing a range of services to the community since 1984, and Valemount College will allow VLS to expand its services even further.

According to the business plan, the college will be registered as a British Columbia Private Career Training Institution and “will be operated as a social enterprise with the mission of promoting life-long learning and economic development in the Valemount area.” Hence, the Valemount College mission statement: Lifelong Learning in the Rocky Mountains.

All courses will focus on rural mountain themes through the following program areas: Certificate program similar to the Northern Outdoor Recreation and Ecotourism Program, called Mountain Outdoor Recreation Tourism (MORT); Certificate program for First Nations Cultural Tourism (FNCT); Certificate program for Rural Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management (RESBM); and Certificate program for Tourism Administration (TA). Shorter-term “edutourism” programs that explore mountain culture will also be offered (edutourism offers micro-learning experiences that often include accommodation and meals for a full tourism experience).

“This is going to attract more tourists and students to the area,” says Riette Kenkel of the Valemount Learning Society. 

As a result, the College will generate economic activity in the Valemount area from sources such as tuitions and student living expenditures and other spillover effects. According to Kenkel, the annual economic impact in the first year of operations alone is projected at $792,000, and by its fourth year is expected to exceed $1.6 million.

The College also has leverage advantage in key partnerships that can work toward stabilizing educational and economic opportunities and community building. Simpcw First Nation members will benefit from and promote the programs, with all First Nation curriculum written by or with input from the Simpcw. 

Both the College of New Caledonia (CNC) and the newly launched Rocky Mountain English College (RMEC) can play key roles in preparing individuals for Valemount College’s programs through curriculum updates and upgrading of English skills for international students.

Valemount Glacier Destination (VGD) has also earmarked the Valemount Learning Society as a source of skills training and education for its employees.

Aside from these, there are benefits for local accommodation and food and beverage operators.

Between now and the Spring of 2017 the plan in moving forward is for the Valemount Learning Society to register a new Society for the operation of Valemount College, then to apply to BC Rural Dividend and Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives and Affected Areas program and others for funding.

Next, a College Director will be recruited and space for the College leased. One main consideration for location is the Community Services Building at Gorse Street as it has available room and access to classroom equipment. The first intake of students is anticipated for Spring of 2018. 

We will be following the progress of the College as plans move forward.