By Andru McCracken

Valemount Learning Centre / RMG file photo

As of March 31, the Valemount Learning Centre will not be offering Work BC programs and will be forced to layoff half its staff. The news came as a shock to the board and staff of the centre last week.

“We did not think this would be possible,” said Jennifer Applebaum, the chair of the society that runs the centre.

Executive Director Riette Kenkel said that the repercussions are substantial.

“A very large percentage of our revenue comes from the WorkBC contract. Without it, we will have to lay off more than half of our staff,” said Kenkel.

Kenkel said that their 7 year contract to provide Work BC services to Valemount and surrounding communities from Avola to Dome Creek, including McBride ends in March and it remains unclear who will take over the work. The province said they would announce the successful proponent in mid to late January.

In the past the Valemount Learning Society bid on WorkBC services for the region, but when the province increased the catchment area for the contract, they were squeezed out.

“The requirements to bid on this new contract […] were far beyond this relatively small rural organization’s capacity, so the Valemount Learning Society could not apply,” said Kenkel.

Two Prince George organizations, one from Quesnel and another from Victoria bid to offer the services, but it is unknown who has won the contract. Also unknown is whether there is a local partner that will deliver the service.

Robson Valley Community Services in McBride was a subcontractor to the centre for the WorkBC contract, but when asked if they planned to deliver WorkBC programs in Valemount, Executive Director Lina Thompson didn’t answer.

“I’m sure the successful proponent for this region will be announced by the Province. Until that time, I am not at liberty to share information,” said Thompson.

What is known is that the organization who has won the bid, will not be using the Valemount Learning Centre to do the work.

“We are currently unclear as to whether or not they will be sub-contracting to another local Valemount organization or whether they will be setting up an office and bringing in new staff,” said Kenkel.

Applebaum said it’s unclear what the Valemount Learning Society will looking like after March 31.

“We have until then to figure out how we move forward,””  said Applebaum.

She said this is an unfortunate turn of events because organization has been on a roll.

“As the president of the society that I am so proud of, I thought we would be overloaded with work, with the ski hill, and the pipeline,” she said. “We birthed the college, birthed the housing society… we were on a roll. This just came as very shocking.”

Applebaum said that the contract provided an umbrella to offer a number of other programs.

“We already had the staff the facility, the equipment, the expertise, so when we applied for these programs, the youth program doesn’t need to won its own building, the literacy program doesn’t need it’s own space,” she said.