The College of the Rockies is forecasting a strong rebound post-pandemic and has created a two-year action plan designed to meet the expected needs of students and employers in Cranbrook and the East Kootenay region.
Paul Vogt, COTR president and CEO, was bullish on the institution’s immediate future during a discussion with Cranbrook city council, while also lauding staff and students for working through the challenges presented by the pandemic over the last year.
“As you know, we’ve been teaching mostly online for a year and I think we’ve done a good job of meeting student needs but to say the least, it hasn’t been ideal,” Vogt said. “We’re a small college and we really pride ourselves on giving a personal experience and we’ll be very happy to return to full operation on that basis in the fall.”
Vogt added it is ‘a huge relief’ that there will be a full return to in-person classes in the fall semester, noting that some programs, such as nursing or trades that require hands-on learning, were able to hold in-person classes in a safe manner over the last year.
Indeed, Vogt said there were no cases of COVID-19 transmission on any campus facilities.
While international enrollment was down for obvious reasons, domestic enrolment actually increased, and the college is projecting a similar number of graduates compared to recent years past, Vogt said.
In spite of the pandemic, the college even launched some new programs, including a two year wireless systems technician diploma, a financial services diploma, and are expanding further into micro-credential programming by offering leadership and mid-career training courses.
Additionally, the College is working with regional secondary schools to offer dual-credit programming that would enable Grade 12 students to receive credits in their final year that can also be credited towards certain college programs.
Moving forward, the college is anticipating a demand in skilled workers and construction trades, health, information technology, education, early childhood education, as well as a strong rebound in the hospitality and tourism sectors.
The college also opened up new student residences this past year, with five buildings that total 100 student-beds, however, those living quarters were only half-occupied due to physical distancing restrictions.
Vogt nodded to the city’s downtown revitalization master plan that is set to get underway over the next year or so, signaling an interest that the College would like to be involved in the process.
“We do want to be part of the planning that the city is undertaking and where we can, to play a role in the city reaching it’s objectives,” Vogt said.