Wednesday, 22 April 2015 14:39

MHC makes program changes

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The Medicine Hat College’s suspension of four programs is not so much a cost-saving measure in the traditional sense, but more of a move towards allocating resources to more popular programs and down the road, looking at changes in the job market.

This was the message from Dr. Michael Gillespie, the college’s interim vice-president academic.
While acknowledging the college’s budget committee had to make the final decision following the reading of the Alberta provincial budget and how much funding they would be able to access through Campus Alberta, Gillespie notes the changes didn’t come lightly and wanted to acknowledge the importance of the Brooks Campus in the future.
“The budget committee had to wait for the 2015-16 budget to come down, but they have been meeting prior to Christmas about decisions to specific academic programming,” explains Gillespie, about suspending student enrolment in Bachelor of Applied Science (Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership), Global Tourism and Marketing diploma, Education Assistant certificate, and Massage Therapy diploma. “However the suspension of the programs' primary driver was not just the budgetary factor but it was declining enrolments ... there was steady gradual declines in the programs. The general trend data factors told us these programs weren’t as popular and given application of those trends we decided to stop.”
It should be noted the Education Assistant program will continue serving students via distributed learning in collaboration with Campus Alberta partners. The Travel Counsellor program, also offered by distributed learning, will continue. The college is ensuring students in these programs are taken care of in whatever capacity they need.
Gillespie says, while disappointing, they had to go this route. This opens doors for new opportunities and with the changing marketplace, the college is trying to follow a “future proofing” ideal of making sure the college is a step ahead of the latest job trends in the employment marketplace.
“Our intention is to study those programs until the new strategic plan is approved,” explains Gillespie. “There are new program opportunities and we are looking at the external demands  and finding out what employers and businesses want.”
He points to the Brooks Campus as being an example of looking at those trends and being able to meet demands.
“The Brooks Campus has a strong physical base in the region ... a good solid anchor,” explains Gillespie, noting the nursing program is a staple in the programs offered.
He says they want to make sure the Brooks campus is fully utilized and is part of College president Dr. Denise Henning’s mantra of having a strong presence, not only in Medicine Hat, but the entire southeast Alberta region.
They want to make sure they know what kind of aspects are important to local governments.
“We have to lead the way in regional stewardship.”
With a regional focus on programming, it’s not only how the college best serves employers, but the students as well. The college administration knows not only what is being learned has changed, but how students learn is changing.
“How programs are being administered with post-secondary are changing in the province ... such as on-line and blended learning,” explains Gillespie. “We want to make sure the accessibility routes to learning are open for everyone, such as in Brooks...”
Gillespie adds who is wanting access to post-secondary programs is also changing, especially considering the work climate. 
The traditional demographic of the 18-24 age range is still there, but there’s an increasing number of mature students wanting new careers who are interested in courses. As well, Gillespie adds the college wants to make sure access and the type of programming offered is easily available and desired by students with disabilities, natives and all adult students in whatever situations.
“We need to go to them,” he says.
Medicine Hat College’s final budget will be completed and announced in June.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor