Print Edition: February 8, 2012
Advanced Education Minister Naomi Yamamoto recently visited the Riverse Dining Room in Chilliwack Trades and Technology Centre. The event was also attended by the Agriculture Minister Don McRae and MLA John Les. They were there to meet with trades students and discuss various aspects of education, from funding to barriers of entry to such programs.
According to Yamamoto, the reason for this trip was to pick up on what students are thinking and the types of challenges and experiences they face while they get their education, “Just another conversation, another dialogue with students…it helps me do my job better.”
Representing the UFV side of things was President Mark Evered, two student board members, as well as a few other faculty members. The trades students, of whom there were eight of, were from mostly programs such as welding and livestock.
As an informal roundtable type with questions posed by each of the visiting politicians, it began with a simple introduction of each student; their name, program, background type of thing.
One of the larger points of discussion arrived early, and was commented on by Yamamoto. It was the fact that many trades’ students at the discussion did not follow a typical post-secondary route. Already trying the job market after high school, they were back to obtain an education which would open more opportunities for them.
Evered later commented that because of the universities position in the valley, more people are having the opportunities that they didn’t previously, “We’re in a valley where traditionally participation rates have been quite low, and so what we’re seeing here, with the number of students, is students who were following the pattern of, where five-ten years ago, where people didn’t go on to post-secondary, but now later in life are able to do so because we are here and we offer the kind of accessibility that you won’t find in any of the traditional universities.”
Then Yamamoto raised the tuition funding issue, “I haven’t met a student, personally, that says that they don’t think that they shouldn’t be paying any tuition at all. Although, that’s what you quite hear often in the media. But when I look at and talk with students, I have yet someone who says to me, face-to-face, ‘tax payers should pay for my entire education. I shouldn’t be responsible for that.’”
One student brought up an interesting point to that. Their thoughts were that if students weren’t paying for the tuition, they would be a lot more complacent in their classroom participation. Students who are paying for their education realize the value and try to get as much back as possible.
Another interesting topic put forth by Les was the acknowledgement of tuition costs and how UFV is operating at 105 per cent`dfs capacity, “we have 35,000 additional post-secondary spaces today (across BC) than we had 10 years ago. So access has improved, it sounds to me like we can still do some more work to improve access.”
In response to Les, a student brought up weekend courses to be a simple solution since some programs courses aren’t offered on Saturdays. Although, this was countered by another, who would prefer to use the weekends to work in order to pay to be able to go to university.
At the end, Yamamoto spoke with me about what she will be taking away from the visit. She referenced the recent potential jobs being created across the province with the Premiers new jobs plan and how skilled labour is going to be needed.
“Yep, you know, it’s for me, it’s great to hear about the experiences that the students are having in the trades programs, knowing that we have a shortage of skills…in some areas.” She said. Adding, “And part of my job is to ensure that we match those training programs with those areas we have shortages in. So it’s good to hear that the university is meeting those demands.”
Speaking for the university, Evered mentioned before leaving, “I’m delighted that the minister is listening to our students…it was a great opportunity for students to present a number of issues that were on their mind.”
He then added, “I’m personally pleased that many of the issues that we’ve talked to the ministry about were reinforced in the conversation.”