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VIU Works with Cowichan Community to Support Region’s Educational Goals and Skills Training

September 23, 2013

Vancouver Island University (VIU) is working with key community partners in the Cowichan Valley to support the educational needs of the region, create more opportunities for skills training and, in turn, contribute to the region’s social, cultural and economic prosperity.

That was the message from VIU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ralph Nilson in a luncheon address to the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce today.

An important part of this commitment is a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between VIU, Cowichan Tribes and the Board of Education of School District #79. The MOU will create more educational opportunities for students and provide an opportunity for the three participants to respond to the unique educational needs of the Cowichan Valley by developing an integrated learning strategy.

“Our goal is to enhance and expand existing training programs for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in the Cowichan Valley and create new opportunities for students,” said Nilson. “This will support VIU’s Regional Strategy for the Cowichan Campus.

“We are also working in partnership with the School District to enhance the K-12 student transitions to post-secondary education.”

As one example, Nilson said the University is working with the school district to offer Dual Credit Trades programming at the recently closed Koksilah Elementary School. The school district has leased VU the property and in exchange, VIU has reserved seats for school district students to train. The ‘Cowichan Trades Centre’, as its been named, will see new and existing trades programs centrally located.

“Cowichan Valley is traditionally a resource based economy in fishing, forestry and agriculture. As these employment areas decline, a new Trades facility will allow us to train a local workforce who can then find better employment opportunities and help meet Canada’s looming skilled-trades shortage.”

Expansion is also planned for VIU’s academic programs. By 2014, the Cowichan Campus will offer a five-year Bachelor of Education program to educate students interested in working as elementary teachers. VIU’s Education program has a strong focus on Aboriginal Education.

Nilson said with $700,000 in funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education and federal government, VIU will launch several other programs targeted to assist Aboriginal youth.

“We’re doing this to address specific employment related training as requested by our First Nations partners in trades, health care and business,” explained Nilson.

As well, starting in October, in partnership with Cowichan Tribes, VIU will offer a 14-week pre-Culinary Arts program for Aboriginal students. Students will get valuable experience in culinary arts and at the same time, prepare food for the Cowichan Valley school lunch program.

“We have an excellent and productive relationship with Chief Harvey Alphonse and the Cowichan Tribes, and we look to strengthening those relationships,” Nilson said.

Nilson also spoke about VIU’s successful community partnership with Providence Farm. In February 2013, VIU’s Culinary Arts program was moved to Providence Farm and a new restaurant – The Farm Table – was opened to rave reviews. Culinary Arts students use many of the ingredients grown on the farm to prepare dishes for the restaurant with a local, organic, field-to-table ethos.

VIU is working closely with the City of Duncan and District of North Cowichan on the University Village Area Plan concept. Discussions are underway with the Economic Development Commission of the Cowichan Valley, Duncan Rotary, as well as other business, social enterprise and volunteer organizations to develop a cooperative economic development model within the Cowichan Valley.

“Ongoing partnerships are critical to identifying relevant programs that will help keep students in the Cowichan Valley, and on Vancouver Island,” he said.

Nilson thanked Chamber members and the community for their continued support of VIU and its students.

“VIU is interested in continuing to learn how the University can support the needs of the community and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with our community partners to do this.

“Part of that is ensuring we remain open and accessible to everyone who aspires to a post-secondary education,” Nilson said. “To accomplish this, we welcome the generous support of individuals and organizations in the Cowichan community who share our values.”


MEDIA CONTACT Marilyn Assaf, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University P:250.740.6559 C: 250.618.4596 E: T: @viunews

Key Facts About Vancouver Island University

• VIU has grown to 18,000 students on four campuses – Cowichan, Parksville, Powell River and the main campus in Nanaimo.

• The University hosts more than 1,600 international students from 83 countries around the world, more than 2,000 First Nations and Metis students, and employs more than 2,000 faculty and staff who live, learn, teach and contribute to local communities.

• Of the annual budget, less than 43% comes from the Province. This is down from 65% 15 years ago, and over 80% in 1982.

• In the last few years with the support of government funding, VIU has built state-of-the-art learning environments including the Aboriginal Gathering Place, the International Centre for Sturgeon Studies, the Centre for Shellfish Research, the Deep Bay Marine Field Station and improvements to regional campuses in Cowichan and Powell River.

• VIU remains focused on its academic and teaching strengths and successes – particularly in the areas of international programs, Aboriginal programs and learning, leading-edge coastal resource management and our trades, technology and technical programs.

• Moving forward, VIU is working with its Foundation to support students and new learning environments, with renewed teaching facilities such as a Health and Science Centre, a Sport and Wellness Centre, as well as more scholarships and bursaries.

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