Students taking university classes at Southeast College in Moosomin

Southeast College wants input

November 21, 2017 9:33 am
Kevin Weedmark

Southeast College is planning a meeting in Moosomin for Tuesday, November 21 to get input on the college’s strategic plan.

“We create a five-year strategic plan, and this is the last year of our current strategic plan,” said College CEO Dion McGrath.

“As part of the board’s efforts we’ve taken the last year of our strategic plan to prepare our new strategic plan.

“What we are trying to do is engage in our community and with our stakeholders to get a sense of how they view the college, what are some of the things that we should start doing and continue doing, stop doing, what are some of the views in the community from our stakeholders of where we need to be going, what do we need to be thinking about, what’s important. All of that conversation is to help the board and us to develop those priority areas that we need to focus on and put actions towards.”

McGrath said there are five priorities under the current strategic plan.

“We’re striving for excellence in what we do, how we do it, our systems, our processes, how we interact with our learners, with our business partners, etc. We wanted responsive and flexible programs. You’ll recall when we had our discussion two years ago about the electrical programming in Moosomin I shared with you the tool that we are using to try to give us a rationale on what programs we should be offering based on various criteria. That is all about being responsive, flexible to the programing needs based on those criteria.

“We want to make sure that we are offering the right programs, at the right time, for the right reasons.

“We want everything we do to be competitive and a lot of that competitiveness is in a lot of our industry-specific programming in the oil and gas sector. We just want to make sure what we are doing in that area is the right stuff, at the right price, with the right credentials to meet the needs of the industry.

“Sustainability and accountability are the last two priority areas. Those ones are clearly aligned with government’s priorities over this time period as well, so we are making sure that in what we are doing we are efficient and effective and that there is long term sustainability for the college.

“Accountability is all about telling people what we are doing and how we are doing at it. In our current strategic plan, part of that is performance measures that we report on annually to our annual report on movement of those key areas of all of these priority areas to see how well we are doing, and it gives us the guide to if we need to make adjustments. One way or another we know we have to do that.”
McGrath said the college is hoping to get some ideas on what direction people want the college to go in, including new programming ideas.

“We always want to hear ideas, because those are conversations that will help us stretch as an organization. An example is the article that your paper ran on the first-year university programming in your recent edition—that was an effort on our part to do what we are designed to do and bring education closer to where the learners are. We did that in the past but we got away from it and now we are trying to return to that particular effort because we feel that some of the students articulated they would be unable to choose that path if we didn’t have a nontraditional delivery model.”
McGrath said the new program, offering first-year university classes in Moosomin, has potential to grow.

“The first year is always the toughest, but after the first year we have some ambassadors who can speak to how it went for them. We can engage with them to find out what we can make better for their experience and from this point on how do we improve, and work with the U of R to make those improvements. I think this university programming is going to be an opportunity moving forward simply because of some financial factors. It is more cost effective for that first year learner not to have to go to an urban centre to do this—up to $10,000 better for that family, and that matters.”

McGrath said the college is hoping for some general feedback as well.

“We want to know, do people think of us? If you do, what do you think of us? Are you aware of what we do in terms of programming? Do you have any thoughts on our past performance, of how well we’ve been doing? A lot of the focus will be on future directions. What are the needs? What do the community participants view as need areas? Maybe we are not aware of that or maybe it re-enforces what we are already aware of and we just need to figure out how we meet those needs. The obvious question is, what are the priorities from the communities?”

McGrath said the college tries to work with local businesses to meet their training needs.

“Part of that conversation is aggregating labour market development needs that would turn into a program,” he said.

“That is always our challenge—making sure that there is sufficient student supply and labor market demand for something, whatever that skill is, so that we can put a cost effective solution in place. We have heard a lot from the ag industry from ag dealers, training for parts persons, and training for ag equipment technicians, and we’re currently engaged with some of the ag dealers now to try to help quantify what is the need, look at the issue from a labour market perspective and determine are there partnership opportunities for a host location—if a dealer has extra space to actually host the program, because an ag tech program requires ag equipment to take a part and put back together. We would need a partner for that type of thing so that is the conversation we are exploring right now with some ag dealers to see if there is a labour force development issue on their end and if there is an opportunity for a partnership for a host location with host equipment to support that type of program.”

McGrath said Moosomin is unique in the Southeast College system.

“Moosomin represents a very unique environment for us because there is oil and gas, potash and agriculture, so those three very important sectors require us to be attentive to the ever-changing labor market needs. It is different from Estevan and Weyburn in a number of areas, but one is that learner supply for programs is different in Moosomin than in Estevan and Weyburn simply because of the community size. Moosomin has a larger catchment area that extends into Manitoba for us as well. My board definitely views Moosomin as a key location for program delivery in order to meet the labour market and learners need in that part of our region. It is also a launching pad for all of our work for the First Nations people along the Number One Highway.”

McGrath said he’s hoping for a wide range of people to turn out at the meeting.

“I am looking for community leaders, I am looking for people like yourself. I’m looking for high school students, moms and dads of high school students. It is open ended. The more diverse perspectives that we get to listen to and engage with, the better it is for us.”

The session is set for set for Tuesday, November 21 at the Canalta Hotel, from 2-3:30 pm.