Holland College's four new principles aim to reduce barriers to getting a job

·3 min read

GEORGETOWN – Holland College's president recalls a time when he struggled to find a job because for every job there was a surplus of workers trying to get it.

"I can tell you without any degree of uncertainty that that is not the case anymore," Alexander (Sandy) MacDonald said.

These days, industries such as early childhood care, resident care and correctional policing need workers, but either there aren't enough available or there are barriers keeping people from attaining the necessary skills, he said.

"I can't think of a single industry on P.E.I. that isn't short on labour."

MacDonald is hopeful that the college's new strategic plan will help to counter this with its four guiding principles, which he outlined during a presentation at Kings Playhouse in Georgetown on Jan. 12.

The principles are innovative and flexible programming, support and inclusion, environmental leadership and corporate innovation.

"Our budget (will be) framed around these four things," he said.

The college has already adapted some of its programs around the first principle. Last year, the college's early childhood care program partnered with workplaces so students could start the program and learn the basics, then jump into work while still enrolled in the two-year program.

Similarly, students pursuing a Red Seal apprenticeship would normally have to take time off work to attend the college's programming, which could be a deterrent for students who have to prioritize a steady income. Moving forward, Red Seal students will be able to continue working while taking part in virtual education.

"(Now) they're earning and learning at the same time," MacDonald said. "It's not that there's anything new in the content, it's just in how we deliver it."

As well, the college's bioscience program has partnered with UPEI via a joint program that mixes the college's expertise in applied learning with the university's focus on theory.

In addition, an entry-level cook position was added to the college's culinary program as many restaurants don't need a fully-trained chef, MacDonald said.

The second principle is about better supporting the college's diverse student base, such as people of ethnicity, people with learning disabilities or people with past traumas or addictions. About $300,000 has been set aside toward one day constructing a student support centre.

"We have four counsellors now," MacDonald said. "We probably should have eight."

The third principle pertains to responding responsibly to the impacts of climate change, such as by reviewing all programs to see about using greener techniques or by reassessing the possibility of including a transit pass in student union fees.

As well, the college recently submitted a report to government outlining a potential centre that would act as a headquarters for P.E.I.'s 24 watershed groups, MacDonald said.

The fourth principle, which involves the intent to invest in effective partnerships, opportunities and technologies, has proven challenging. That’s because it requires the college to change or restructure how it operates, such as by framing its budget around the four principals.

"Because we want to make sure we're spending every nickel as efficiently as possible," he said.


Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian