Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Colleges shortchanged," says president of Red River College

There's an interesting editorial in today's Winnipeg Free Press, written by Red River College President Jeff Zabudsky.

Zabudsky says that at a time when university enrolment is dropping, colleges - and Red River College in particular - are "bursting at the seams."

Why then, asks Zabudsky, under the new stimulus package is there shared funding, with universities getting 70 per cent, and colleges getting 30 per cent?

He says:
"Red River College has proposed two "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects that would help address this capacity issue. The first is the redevelopment of the historic Union Bank Tower in Winnipeg's Exchange District into the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute, which will include overflow classroom space for our Princess Street Campus, a student residence and a teaching/research facility for our culinary and hospitality programs.

"That project will open up space at our Notre Dame Campus for the construction of a $57-million state-of-the-art Skilled Trades & Technology Centre, which will allow us to significantly increase the number of students and apprentices trained in areas like carpentry, welding, electrical and piping trades where we currently have sizable waiting lists."

As well, we know that Red River College has taken over the lease of the Massey Building from the University of Winnipeg, and has expressed interest in the Public Safety Building; in that scenario, the cops would move to the former Canada Post headquarters on Graham Ave.

Graduating in a recession

I agree with Zabudsky's thesis.

I graduated from CreComm in 1994, in the middle of a pretty bad recession, and I was very fearful that there would be nothing out there. I had quit a good-paying job in the financial industry in order to go to college and do something that interested me, and I had a lot riding on my ability to translate that move into hard currency, so no one would be able to tell me: "I told you so."

To my surprise, I found employment pretty quickly. While the job didn't pay very well, it was in the communications industry, gave me some pretty great experience, and beat singing karaoke every night, which is what most of my unemployed friends (OK, and me) were doing for "employment" at the time.

When I graduated from university, I had a very different experience. Jobs were plentiful, but I had no network, no profs who knew me by name (but for the awesome Professor Nielsen), and no specific "trade" on which I could focus my job search.

Here we are, 15 years later, and we find ourselves in a similar economic position. Virtually every week, the CreComm program gets a big stack of applications, most of whom are current or former university students looking for something that will get them employment.

If the universities get 70 per cent of the federal stimulus package, then all that means is that applications to Red River College will go up by 70 per cent in about two years or so. Why not just eliminate the middleman?

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