Valemount Learning Centre
Valemount Learning Centre

by KORIE MARSHALL

Not many people showed up for a public meeting on plans for a potential post-secondary school in Valemount last week, but there were enough for some lively discussion, and to throw around a few ideas for training, courses and instructors that could work here.

The Valemount Learning Centre board recently contracted out for someone to develop a business plan for a private career training institution in Valemount, to be run as a social enterprise. A social enterprise has two goals – one is to earn revenue, but the other, often more important goal is to achieve some social, cultural, community economic or environmental outcomes.

Adventure Management won the contract to create the plan, and held a meeting last week to gather input and feedback as well as ideas for courses or instructors.

Adventure Management’s Wendy Dyson, who is also on the Learning Centre board, explained the Learning Centre non-profit board realized there might be room for expanding its offerings back in 2013. The NORE program (Northern Outdoor Recreation and Ecotourism) came up, because it was a small program that ran for a number of years in the area, and brought people here, some of whom stayed and brought or started their families here.

That program was a partnership with the College of New Caledonia, and when their priorities changed, they canceled funding for the program, even though the enrolment numbers made sense for a small community like Valemount. The Learning Society board agreed they didn’t want to be at the mercy of another organization, and they were willing to take on some business risks.

So in April 2014, the Learning Society hired Izen Consulting to do a pre-feasibility study, and then hired them again in March 2015 to do a market study on the idea of post-secondary school – something longer term that the continuing education courses already offered by the Learning Centre, and that might be interesting and valuable to locals as well as attract people from outside of the area.

When the reports came back favorable, Dyson started stepping back from board meetings, because she knew she might be interested in contracting for the next steps. Her company won the contract to develop a business plan in January 2016.

At the meeting on March 29th, members of the board, staff at the Learning Centre, and some members of the public threw around ideas for training courses, and opportunities to have local people share their vast knowledge, as well as potentially attract short term trainers in various subjects. Ideas ranged anywhere from opera summer schools to building “Tiny Houses” to basic bush skills like using GPS and walking safely in the woods, to hospitality training, to summer field studies for university students.

Dyson says she’s spoken with people from the Simpcw First Nation, some of whom participated in and loved the NORE program. One thing they are specifically interested in is supervisory and management or project management training for their community members.

“The draw is Valemount,” said President of the board Jen Applebaum. She says people will come here for training, whether for a week or up to eight months, if the community builds some programs that showcase the talent and experience available. In the process, we’ll be promoting employment for locals, and encourage others to move here.

Just for fun, the group threw around some ideas for names for the venture. There were lots of options, and a fair bit of debate over some, but the simplest may have reverberated the best. And though by no means official, it seems to flow nice with a tag line that has been thrown around – “Valemount College: Big Mountains; Small Classes”.

If you have thoughts and ideas for courses, or may be interested in teaching or facilitating some aspects, contact Wendy Dyson at 250-566-4317 or email her at wendy@adventuremanagement.ca. The business plan is scheduled to be completed in September 2016. After that the board will review it and decide on implementation.