By Ryan King
Community News Reporter
PORT AUX BASQUES – Many college campuses offer evening classes where residents can learn useful life skills or just have some fun, such as attending a cooking or drawing class. The College of the North Atlantic (CNA) campus in Port aux Basques does not offer any such classes, and resident Karen Simon is curious as to why.
“We’re hoping to do something like a basic carpentry course, or a course where you learn how to operate tools first and then go into a carpentry course. We were thinking about a cooking course. We were also wondering about general maintenance around the house, how to change a set of taps, how to do a toilet, things like that,” said Simon.
Simon believes that there are many talented people around the region who could pass on their skills if they had the opportunity to teach classes at the college.
“There’s so many artists in our community, in our area. That would be wonderful if we could have a paint class. Because I did one with Aubrey Wells a few years ago, and he offered it twice for us, and I mean, it was wonderful. And I know Joanne Goosney does classes as well now. But you know, there are so many different talents, and even for somebody to learn how to make snowshoes, or somebody to learn how to play guitar, there are people in the community that might even be able to do a day course, if night courses weren’t an option,” said Simon.
She has heard similar statements of interest from her friends and neighbours.
“I’ve got a nice few friends that would love to be able to take on something like this, and a lot of my friends now are retired. So that would be a nice way to get out, be social and meet friends, or make more friends.”
Simon is also worried about the status of the college, given that other campuses have expanded their programs, though the news of the campus in Port aux Basques adding a new program to their schedule was promising.
“I was really happy when I saw that they’re offering early childhood education. I thought that was amazing, and I think my concern came from the fact that the CNA in Stephenville has undergone this great big transition, where they got a brand new state of the art building, and it seems like they’re growing and growing.”
Simon does not want to see the town lose the campus.
“It’s just that when you have something as good as the college in a community, you don’t want to lose it. You want to see it grow, and with so much talent in our area it would be amazing. And one time that I contacted them, they said they were waiting for funding,” shared Simon.
“A fellow in the valley mentioned that it would be lovely if you could do a bird watching course in the classroom first, and then take it outside in the winter or spring, or something like that. Even for yoga classes – there’s a lady in town, she’s opening her own studio next to her house called Sanctuary by the Sea. So if anything could be offered to the public, anything at all, it’s a plus. To me it’s a bonus.”
Michelle Barry, CNA Communications Specialist, explained that night classes cannot be offered at the local campus due to the ongoing pandemic and corresponding restrictions. Currently the entire province is at Level 3.
“As a result of the pandemic, our campuses are closed to the public. This is a province-wide policy. It has been like this since the pandemic was declared in NL and will remain in place to protect students and staff as long as the public health emergency concerns continue. Programs/courses offered at our campuses are those outlined in the Program Guide and Academic Plan and others offered through our Customized and Continuous Learning partnerships or via our online platform.”
Barry added that there are several options for academic programs at the college. These include cabinetmaker, welder/metal fabrication, non-destructive testing (NDT), executive office management, business administration, and the new early childhood education program. There will be advanced training offered at the campus in the winter semester for welding and cabinetmaking.
CNA also offers some contract training and community education, with the Port aux Basques campus offering marine hospitality, national certification exams for NDT, and a Canadian Welding Bureau testing centre. They also offer contract training for NDT which includes Magnetic Particle Inspection, Liquid Penetrant Inspection, Ultrasonic Inspection, Radiography Testing, and Materials and Processes.
The campus also just opened a Distributed Learning Drop-in Centre, which is designed to support students from the Southwest Coast region who are completing a program through the CNA online Distributed Learning system.
Barry insisted that the college is not in danger of closing, though enrollment has admittedly fallen.
“Enrollment does appear to have gone down. Also, due to the pandemic, our ability to attract out-of-province and international students was impacted over the past two years. At our smaller campuses, a reduction of even five students could make more of an impact than it would a larger campus,” said Barry. “We should also consider the fact that Port aux Basques campus offers programming that is primarily related to apprenticing and trades. StatsCanada is reporting a decline in overall apprenticeship registrations, even before the pandemic; therefore, the need to diversify programs is always a factor.”
Contrary to popular belief, an increase in tuition has not been a factor, as that has not increased and remains at $726 per semester, making it the second lowest rate in Canada outside of Québec.