December 2019

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WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2019 11 University College of the North offers more than 40 degree, diploma and certificate programs at two main campuses in The Pas and Thompson, and 12 regional centres. Here you'll experience quality education that inspires students who are building better lives for themselves, their families and their commu- nities. What are your life goals? What do you aspire to become and achieve? HERE YOU CAN. UCN.CA University College of the North TAKE YOUR NEXT STEPS AT UCN. UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF THE NORTH COMMITTED TO NORTHERN EDUCATION By Neil Coligan for the Free Press Manitoba's northernmost post-secondary institution has seen remarkable growth since its founding in 2004 and it looks like 2020 will continue that trend. This July, University College of the North celebrated its 15th anniversary by graduating more than 400 students. In the 2018-19 academic year, UCN offered 29 certificate, degree and diploma programs to 3,395 students in Thompson, The Pas and 20 other northern Manitoba communities. Of those degree programs, UCN offered a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Business Administration, all with courses largely transferable to the those pursuing further studies at at other post-seondary institutions like the University of Manitoba. In September it was announced that graduates of UCN's two-year diploma in Natural Resources Management Technology will receive two years towards the completion of the four-year Bachelor of Environmental Science degree at the U of M. "UCN's commitment to education close to home is stronger than ever, and I commend the dedication of our recruiters, faculty and staff members who have worked tirelessly to ensure that more northerners than ever are benefiting from the high-quality education offered by UCN, regardless of where they live," said Doug Lauvstad, UCN's president and vice-chancellor. That effort doesn't come without challenges, some of them unique to UCN, such as the number of potential students who haven't completed their high school education. "In some communities it can be as high as 80 per cent where they might not have Grade 12. More typically it can be 50 per cent," says Dan Smith, UCN's Vice-President Academic and Research. "There's a lot of good work being done throughout the north on improving high school education and completion rates, but it's a slow process," says Smith, "We're looking at helping in that regard." Smith says UCN's goal is to aim for a ratio of one student actively in a diploma or degree program for every two or three being given upgrading to a post-high school standard or certification. "Nelson House recently told us they have 800 youth who are not in employment, education or training. For us that's an opportunity to provide education and training to get them ready," he says. It helps that UCN has partners in local industries such as mining and forestry that require employees to take training courses and certification in forklift operation, workplace safety and other short-term courses. "For instance, we work very closely with Vale in Thompson," says Smith, "The value added for us and for other industries in the north is that we're delivering the training so they don't have to." In order to meet this need, UCN has established what are called workforce development centres at its campuses in Thompson and The Pas. They also operate a similar centre in Swan River, where there is a regional campus. But Smith says the skills most in demand are in health care where regional health authorities have told UCN they will hire as many of their students as they can graduate. Those courses for nurses are taught in co-operation with the University of Manitoba. Last year, UCN also added a program for primary care paramedics offered in partnership with Criti Care EMS in Winnipeg. It's expected the graduates will fill a growing demand for the service in the north and other parts of Manitoba. Latest figures from 2017 show that 70 per cent of UCN students are Indigenous with most of these having their tuition paid by First Nations' Educational Authorities and other sponsors. While this ensures finances are not an impediment to education, being able to find educators who reflect the student body is challenging. Currently only 34 per cent of UCN's faculty and staff is Indigenous. "We're always looking to hire more faculty, but Indigenous scholars are very much in demand," says Smith. He says even larger institutions such as the University of Manitoba, which created 12 tenure track positions for Indigenous candidates, are finding it tough to fill those positions in a competitive market. Even with these challenges, Smith says the outlook for UCN is positive. "Northern communities and the provincial government have high expectations for our programs," says Smith. "More and more students from the north are getting an education that will help them to improve their lives, contribute to their communities, and help to strengthen the northern economy." For more information, visit ❚ Last academic year, UCN offered 29 certificate, degree and diploma programs to 3,395 students in Thompson, The Pas and 20 other northern Manitoba communities. UCN photos

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