Tuesday, April 9, 2019 ~ WEST SHORE
~ by Mary P Brooke, West Shore Voice News
An important long-time goal of the west shore community is one step closer to being realized, with today’s announcement of $1.5 million being provided by the BC provincial government toward development of a full business case for expanding post-secondary education opportunities for students living in the west shore area of Greater Victoria.
The business case follows a recently completed feasibility study that was launched in April 2018, as spearheaded by the City of Langford and Sooke School District 62 (SD62) bringing first Royal Roads University and Camosun College into the loop. That working group’s final report was submitted to the Province in March 2019, based on input as well from a range of community partners including parents and students (through an online survey), First Nations, west shore area municipalities and UVic. They assessed the post-secondary education needs and accessibility issues on the growing west shore.
Post-secondary within the west shore region would provide close-to-home access to higher education in part by eliminating the costs for travel and accommodation at locations beyond the area.
The feasibility study concluded the next step would be funding a full business case which will include advanced student enrolment modelling, detailed academic curriculum design, infrastructure needs, site selection and design, as well as a detailed financial analysis and timelines.
The business case phase was exciting news announced today by SD62 Chair Ravi Parmar at a sport-field celebration at Belmont Secondary School. Parmar acknowledged the leadership of Langford Mayor Stew Young and council for the success of their initiative to get post-secondary rolling for the west shore.
For years, Mayor Stew Young has articulated the need for close-to-home post secondary options for a variety of reasons, including affordability for students and families (compared to travelling further with town or out of town or even out of province). As well, the potential for business interaction within the post-secondary community is immense, for collaboration on a number of levels to the benefit of academics and community, says Stew Young.
The Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training said today in a release that the business case will conform with provincial government standards as outlined in the government’s Capital Asset Management Framework and the ministry’s Capital Asset Reference Guide. These guides help public post-secondary institutions with the planning, approval and implementation of capital projects.
Community partners, including students and parents, will continue to be involved in the local planning process. Royal Roads University will work with local First Nations, SD62, West Shore municipalities, Camosun College, the University of Victoria and the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, as well as the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.
West shore municipalities include the City of Colwood, the City of Langford, the District of Metchosin, the District of Highlands and the Town of View Royal, as well as the District of Sooke.
According to Statistics Canada, the West Shore is one of the fastest growing regions in Canada, with a population increase of 49% between 2001 and 2016, and projected growth of 27% over the next decade. This rapid growth is skewed toward a younger demographic, where families are finding relative affordability for housing.
The region has a larger share of persons under the age of 15 years (17.1%), compared to the provincial average (14.9%).
Six-year high school completion rates are at a 20-year high in SD62 (76.3% in 2016-17) and have generally trended upward since 1999 (63.1%), but are below the province-wide average of 84%.
Direct transition rates of SD62 high school graduates to all types of post-secondary institutions lag behind the provincial average. The five-year (2011-12 to 2015-16) historic average is 43.2%, compared to 52.5% in all of BC.
West Shore high school graduates are transitioning to university at much lower rates than their counterparts in other parts of B.C., with 17.2% of graduates attending university, almost half the provincial average of 34.1%.
The affordability factor and small-town-to-big-city factor have now been recognized as impediments to greater post-secondary entry rates for SD62 graduates. There are three high schools in the west shore — Belmont Secondary School in Langford, Royal Bay Secondary in Colwood, and Edward Milne Community School in Sooke.
The 2018 edition of the BC Labour Market Outlook forecast 903,000 job openings in the next decade until 2028, due to a mixture of retirements and economic growth. About 77% of job openings will require some level of post-secondary education or training.