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The University College of the North and post-secondary education in northern Manitoba

Wednesday May 9, I asked the Minister of Education and Training, in Estimates about education in northern Manitoba and the use of the internet and other means of learning in the north. 

Mr. Gerrard: There was a dream at one point that  the University College of the North might provide that window of opportunity for northern communities [A one-window shop for access to education for northerners that uses the internet in a major way to help people get education in their own communities], but it doesn't seem to have happened the way that it could have done.
      I wonder if the minister would comment.
Mr. Wishart: I appreciate the questions and certainly, we know that there are some challenges at University College of the North in terms of–their enrolment numbers haven't shown the growth that I think we all hoped would take place.
      And we have a new board in place and a new president in place who has very strong connections with some of the industries in the North, and so we're looking for opportunities to build that, particularly on the college's side. That was actually–and the college's review–perhaps the member's had a chance to have a look at that–has demonstrated that there is some real challenges in the numbers, particularly in the North when it comes to number of students that we're getting into the college's program.
      That was one of the things, I think, that we learned from the whole college's review–is that, as a province, we haven't been gaining ground as quickly as many other provinces on the percentage of our population that have a college education. So that points out areas that we would like to work with.
      Much of the shortfall was very regional in nature, in particular with rural and remote being the challenged areas. So we know that we need to look at that and try and make sure that services or college opportunities are more widely distributed in the–in  rural communities, whether they be southern or whether they be northern, because, frankly, there were some gaps in the southern ones too, which is not–not for the same reasons. I suspect it's not a remoteness issue as much as it's a service-delivery issue there.
      So we're looking for opportunities to do that, and I am certainly committed to doing that.
      We want to growth–grow our preparedness in terms of a well‑trained workforce. It's what we need in the province of Manitoba. It's one of the things that we need not only for our own success ongoing, because if we have the baby boom aging out, we've got to replace an awful lot of people just on that, but we know that we want to be able to attract good private industry to invest in Manitoba.
      So, I know the member would like to ask some more.
Mr. Gerrard: It is–seemed to me that there is an opportunity to have courses which are partly over the Internet and partly bring students into centres like Thompson or, you know, Flin Flon for the mining academy or what have you and that we're not blending or integrating the opportunities very well.
      And I think that the minister could do a significant benefit to people in the North by looking at more flexible opportunities in which you blend Internet base for part of the course and hands-on learning for the other parts of the course.
      I think that we really have an opportunity to do a much better job than we are doing at the moment, and I hope the minister takes that opportunity because, you know, so far, you know, we haven't done nearly as well as I think we might be able to do.
Mr. Wishart: Well, I appreciate the member's question. Certainly, we're prepared to look at that. And sort of the mixed delivery model is–
Mr. Chairperson: The hour being 5 p.m., committee rise.

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