Pembroke – Algonquin College at the Pembroke Waterfront Campus is welcoming students from around the world to the Ottawa Valley with students of all ages learning in the various programs and an increase in applications for this fall.
“Most people think of college students directly coming from high school,” Jamie Bramburger, Manager of Community and Student Affairs, told Renfrew County council recently. “That is not the case. It is one in four.” Most of the students have gone to university or gone directly into the workforce after high school and are looking at a different career or change, he explained. With many students coming from outside the area, he gave a snapshot of a first year class, noting in the fall of 2020 there were 571 first year students with 299 coming from out of town. About 23 per cent are coming to the college straight from high school and 30 per cent are over 25 years old, he said. There were also 15 international students beginning in the fall with the same amount starting again at the winter term.
“When we have our winter intake, we have one program with 14 international students,” he said.
The Environmental Management and Assessment Program have a split of domestic and international students, he explained. The international students isolate in Ottawa before coming to Pembroke, he added.
There is a great deal of interest in the college programs with applications up by 300 for this fall, he said. There are 20 full-time programs offered at the campus.
Students come from all over Ontario and internationally as well as from within the county. Mr. Bramburger said the majority of students are from Pembroke, Petawawa and Laurentian Valley.
“That is where the bulk of the population is and where the campus is,” he noted. There are 16 from Bonnechere Valley. Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards had 10 students and Madawaska Valley a total of 14. Students from the Arnprior area tend to gravitate to the Ottawa campus, he added.
Dr. Keltie Jones, the dean of the campus, joined Mr. Bramburger in the virtual meeting. She said she was glad to be part of the update and to join county council.
“We have done some amazing things in the last year given the situation we are in,” she said.
Because of the remote learning aspect there is a great deal of competition for students right now, she added. At the waterfront campus they are making sure students feel welcome, she said.
“We let students know we want them,” she stressed.
Strategic priorities for the college include: personalized learning for students; diversification of student population; work integrated learning (co-op) and truth and reconciliation.
Warden Debbie Robinson said the PSW program at Bonnechere Manor has been a huge success and she wondered if a similar program would work at Miramichi Lodge.
Mr. Bramburger said both Miramichi Lodge and Marianhill have had good relationships with Algonquin College, and offer training opportunities.
“The Renfrew partnership was to access training without travelling to Pembroke,” he explained.
North Algona Wilberforce Mayor James Brose said it is challenging for municipalities to find staff including chief building officials and other municipal government staff.
“There is an exodus of qualified people,” he said.
The mayor questioned if the college is working on any of those types of programs.
Mr. Bramburger said there is specific certification within the municipal sector but there are meetings about potential partnerships. There is a lot of remote training for the municipal sector now, he added.
Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet said there is a need for more skilled trades. “A lot of projects in Petawawa are being delayed because there are not qualified journeymen,” he said, adding there seems to be a void especially in the electrical field.
Algonquin College in Pembroke has many graduates coming from the trades program, Mr. Bramburger said.
“The majority are local,” he added. “But it will take time.”
Mayor Jennifer Murphy of Bonnechere Valley asked if the college had been approached about some regional training for firefighters following the closure of the Ontario Fire College.
“We need funding and we do need a place to train,” she said.
As well, automotive apprentices are needed, she said.
Mr. Bramburger said there is a firefighter program at the Ottawa campus.
“Locally, it has not moved forward,” he said, adding he has not been contacted about a program in Pembroke.
Dr. Jones said there have been some casual conversations about this need for firefighter training for area departments. “It is a very complex area to get into,” she said. “I know this second hand because my wife is a volunteer firefighter and has gone through all the levels of training.”
Mayor Michael Donohue of Admaston/Bromley Township said there is a void in agricultural training after the closure of Kemptville College several years ago. He said while there was a brief sojourn at the University of Guelph, that has concluded. This limits opportunities for learning for those pursuing a career in agriculture, he said.
“There is a significant gap in Eastern Ontario,” he said.
Training is needed for those entering the field, Mayor Donohue said.
“Forestry is not your grandfather’s forestry and agriculture is not your grandfather’s agriculture,” he said.
Dr. Jones said this was an issue she was keenly aware of.
“You are speaking to my heart here, Michael,” she said. “I came from the agricultural campus in Nova Scotia.”
This would be a possibility, she said.
“I think that is definitely an area of opportunity and we might be able to develop some partnerships in the future,” she said.
Dr. Jones was assistant dean at the Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie University.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader