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Ministers tour Brandon's post-secondary schools

The Brandon Sun - 3/31/2021

High-ranking members of the provincial government dropped by Brandon University and Assiniboine Community College on Monday to tour the schools’ facilities for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak hit.

This group included Education Minister Cliff Cullen (MLA for Spruce Woods), Central Services Minister Reg Helwer (MLA for Brandon West) and Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration Minister Wayne Ewasko (MLA for Lac du Bonnet).

Brandon East Progressive Conservative MLA Len Isleifson also joined this crew later on.

During these back-to-back tours, school officials used this opportunity to showcase how their respective institutions have adapted to the pandemic through new education programming and renovations on campus.

In the morning, the trio of ministers joined up with BU representatives to see how the school was moving forward with on-campus operations since a small number of students still need to attend in-person activities to receive their degrees.

After visiting the John R. Brodie Science Centre and Queen Elizabeth II Music Building, the group met up with BU Dean of Education Heather Duncan, who was proud to announce a new program that will be available starting in September.

Duncan said that the Technical/Vocational Bachelor of Education program is designed to give prospective teachers an accessible route to obtain a Bachelor of Education degree, especially if they are looking to teach subjects like science.

“Because we all know the importance of sciences across the province, and we don’t have enough science teachers,” she said.

A followup press release from BU explained that this program will also be open to teachers who already received a Technical Vocational Teacher Education diploma from Red River College and want to become fully certified.

Later on, Cullen mentioned that this kind of programming lines up with his government’s current push for K-12 education reform, which aims to cut $40 million worth of administrative costs and redirect that money to the classroom.

“So I think, clearly, investing in the education front for the teaching portfolio is a positive thing, since it’s going to pay dividends down the road for K-12,” he said.

The Technical/Vocational Bachelor of Education program involves two years of full-time study and requires students to register in arts, science and education courses.

For the afternoon leg of the tour, the ministers got a closer look at the major construction projects that the ACC administration has been spearheading over the past five years.

This includes a visit to the school’s new Food Processing Centre, Assiniboine Early Learning Centre and Public Safety Training Centre, which were all constructed in spaces that weren’t being fully utilized on campus beforehand.

ACC president Mark Frison said that the school will start building a new Adult Collegiate space and 10,050 square-foot Centre for Creative Media at the end of the month to complete this recent round of renovations.

These final two projects will cost around $6 million to complete, with the Centre for Creative Media being home to three new creative media programs: Digital Art and Design, Media and Communications and Web and Interactive Development.

“It’s great to be able to showcase it all at once,” Frison said after Monday’s tour wrapped up. “You sort of do (these projects) one by one and you forget how much has changed during that period. So to be able to show how beneficial it’s been to us, to be able to use that space during a period of great growth, has been good.”

Afterward, Cullen, Helwer and Ewasko all told the Sun that they were impressed with how both BU and ACC have managed to stay busy and innovative during this time of uncertainty.

“You can see people being forced to make some changes and everybody has to adapt along the way,” Cullen said. “So hats off to them.”

Ewasko hopes that these schools can keep this momentum up moving forward since Manitoba’s post-secondary institutions have the important task of preparing students for a job market that has been completely changed by COVID-19.

“The (school) presidents and I have spoken in the past about being nimble and being able to pivot at times with regards to labour market demands,” he said. “And I think ACC and BU are showing that that’s absolutely possible.”


» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson