Merritt college applies to establish campus in Kitimat

If funding is approved, KVI will be absorbed into the new institution

The Kitimat Valley Institute will cease to exist if a proposal by Merritt-based Nicola Valley Institute of Technology to establish a campus in Kitimat is approved by the Ministry of Advanced Education.

The proposal, which is currently before the ministry, will see NVIT absorb KVI, its staff and its infrastructure, to establish NVIT’s first northern campus.

“We’re very excited about the possibility of NVIT taking over KVI. Our hope would be that the ministry approves the business case,” said KVI president and CEO, Tanya Rexin.

She said KVI is currently a private training institute and that the takeover would see the institution become an accredited public post-secondary institution.

Public post-secondary institutions are authorized under provincial legislation to deliver post-secondary education and training in B.C.

Rexin said NVIT already has a presence at KVI, offering two NVIT programs – Environmental Natural Resources Technologist and Aboriginal Early Childhood Education. They also provide Adult Upgrading and trades training in partnership with the B.C. Institute of Technology (BCIT).

“Students would not notice a significant difference but they would have additional support through NVIT,” said Rexin.

She said should NVIT take over KVI, management would try to keep as many staff on as possible.

NVIT is an Aboriginal public post-secondary institution, offering a range of education and training programs leading to certificates, diplomas and degrees, with a campus in Merritt and in Vancouver.

NVIT president and CEO Ken Tourand, who was in Kitimat this week to meet with KVI management and the Haisla Nation Council, said NVIT has for the past five years been looking at opening a campus in the north.

“We’re a provincial institute that has the ability to offer courses anywhere across the province, so when KVI reached out to us we were quite excited,” said Tourand.

He said in order for NVIT to establish a campus anywhere in B.C., two requirements have to be met.

The first is an invitation by the local First Nations to establish a campus on their traditional land, and the second is the support from the ministry.

The first requirement was met with the Haisla Nation Council extending an invitation to NVIT.

“Having the support of the Haisla Nation is key to establishing the campus in Kitimat,” said Tourand, who along with his management team met with the HNC on Monday, November 26.

“Right now we’re in a holding pattern. We submitted a business case to the ministry and they are doing their due diligence,” said Tourand. “I think the ministry will see the value of establishing a campus in Kitimat.”

He wouldn’t commit to a definite date for a decision by the ministry, save to say that it would be early next year.

“It’s tough to say when they will make a decision, but realistically by the end of February 2019 we will know if we’re coming or not,” said Tourand.

He said the ministry’s support is crucial in order to access core funding to operate the campus in Kitimat.

This isn’t the first time that NVIT has absorbed another institution – in 2007 NVIT took over the Institute of Indigenous Government (IIG) at the request of the ministry.

“We have done this once before and we learned a lot. I have the same team that I had then,” said Tourand.

The ministry approached NVIT to take over IIG in February 2007 – the process was completed by July and the first courses offered at the Vancouver campus in September.

“Over half of the employees that were at IIG at the time are still there. We see something very similar happening here in Kitimat.

“We will roll out a transition plan and implement a proper phased approach – right now nothing changes.”

He said key to taking over KVI is that the two institutions share a similar vision and mission, with similar values.

“There won’t be a huge culture shift,” assured Tourand.

He said the takeover would bring stability to the institution and planned programs to reach out to the Haisla and residents of Kitimat.

“We are definitely looking at a range of courses. We have no preconceived notions of what works and we will be looking into what the programming needs are here. If we don’t have them, we will develop them,” added Tourand.

HNC chief councillor Cyrstal Smith said the entire region will benefit from the takeover through the expansion of high quality, accredited post-secondary training in Kitimat.

“This level of education is important for the region as we prepare workers for the many positions that will be available as part of the LNG Canada project,” said Smith.

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