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Wednesday, 01 June 2011 15:45

Great Plains College benefiitng from expansion

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Premier Brad Wall was impressed with the new look of Great Plains College May 27.

For years, the Great Plains College reminded Wall of his days of attending Beatty Collegiate in Grade 8 and 9. The building eventually became the community college and had not received a major facelift since then.

On May 27, however, the newly-renovated area of the school — including a student lounge, bigger booths for welding labs and a new shop space that will be used for the electrician and wind turbine maintenance technician programs — officially opened, giving the building a new look.

“It’s a lot different. It’s remarkable,” said Wall, who attended Beatty Collegiate in 1978 and 1979. “Before this renovation it hadn’t really changed a lot, which is entirely the point. It needed some renovation and it wasn’t entirely expensive.”

The renovation and expansion had a price tag of $13.5 million. It was funded by both the federal and provincial governments, which each put forward enough money to cover half the costs.

The federal government helped fund the project through the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, a
$2-billion stimulus measure.

Although the new lab space won’t affect Tyler Byers, a second-year power engineering student, he is still happy to see the renovations completed at the college.

“It’s really exciting,” said Byers, a member of the SunDogs men’s volleyball team. “When I first came here it was pretty stingy and the last year it has been slow for staff and students with all the construction, but it’s nice to see it come together. It’s a lot more open with the cafeteria. Maybe students can converse a little bit more.

“The gym is kind of renovated a bit now so we’re practising with our volleyball team there and we played our first game in there earlier this season.”

David Francis, the president and CEO of Great Plains College said the timing for the renovations to be finished couldn’t be better.

Francis, who has held his position for a little more than a month, thinks the improvements will benefit the students immediately. He feels it may lead to more high-school graduates to stay in Swift Current for a few years while taking classes at Great Plains College.

He also feels the new expansion allows him to work on the college’s long-term plan.

“Our future is going to be strategic new programs that match what employers are looking for in the southwest region and the Great Plains region, which is about 100,000 square kilometres,” he said. “In terms of new things, in addition to offering programs in the trades or academic subjects, we want to engage in applied research and start interfacing and having creative projects with industry to solve real-world problems that they’re trying to rectify in the workplace or in the oil patch or oil field.

“We also need to re-imagine how we support our students through the use of new technology, whether it be online learning or distributive technologies. We have upgrades now for people to do better collaborative learning on site as well as on the Internet.”

Wall, who is from Swift Current, is impressed with the college’s plan.

He thinks the renovations will go a long way to helping it achieve Francis’ vision and what the college has been working toward.

“It has been a great campus for a long time and growing and I think this new facility matches what has been achieved here with less of a campus over the last few years,” he said.

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