The University of Victoria campus. (Black Press Media file photo)

The University of Victoria campus. (Black Press Media file photo)

LETTER: Invest in higher education to help Island communities recover from COVID-19

Island faculty, union leaders call on government for more post-secondary funding

The current global pandemic has been the largest shock to the Canadian economy since the Great Depression. In order for our local communities on Vancouver Island to recover from this major and ongoing societal upheaval, we need to start thinking ahead, not just reacting to each crisis as it unfolds. The pandemic provides an opportunity to invest in the people of British Columbia and build a stronger, more diversified, and more resilient economy. How can we build this economy? By creating educational and employment opportunities for people in our communities who have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. One of the key ways that the provincial government can help these people will be through major and targeted investments in post-secondary education.

Youth are in most urgent need of such investments as youth unemployment is at a staggering 29.1 per cent. Millennials came of age during the 2008 financial crisis. We’ve seen the generational impacts of that crisis in the form of lack of opportunity, insecure employment in the gig economy, and declining rates of unionization. Now Gen Z (those born 1997 and later) is facing an even larger economic and social crisis which is already proving to have widespread impacts on mental health. We need to ensure that this isn’t a lost generation. These young people need opportunities to advance so that they are able to enjoy the same advantages as previous generations. We can do this now by reducing their barriers to post-secondary education. This can be done through tuition fee reduction, student loan forgiveness, and grants to low income students.

Higher education is not just crucial for youth. Many unemployed and underemployed people today will have no choice but to pivot to new careers which, in many cases, will require advanced education. Some sectors of the economy may take years to recover from the pandemic and workers cannot afford to wait. A fully funded and robust post-secondary sector will be absolutely crucial to transitioning these workers into the COVID and post-COVID economies.

From Victoria to Duncan to Nanaimo to Courtenay, Campbell River and beyond, colleges and universities are major economic drivers for our Island communities. They provide education and employment to our fellow Islanders, partner with and support local health care, develop research opportunities that create new businesses, and work with local community and Indigenous groups. They attract domestic and international students to our region who spend money on our local businesses and services and often go on to become valuable members of our communities. Major investments in post-secondary education don’t just benefit students or the people who work at colleges and universities – they benefit our communities as a whole. Maintaining employment and enrolment levels at our local colleges and universities will be crucial to keeping these powerful economic drivers up and running and contributing to our communities during this time of uncertainty.

At this pivotal moment in our province’s history, government at a minimum needs to maintain post-secondary budgets at pre-pandemic levels, by providing funding to compensate for losses in international enrolments and the costs of moving to online instruction. And, in the long-term, the government needs to move away from a post-secondary funding model that is overly reliant on international student tuition fees and thereby makes the sector more vulnerable to economic shocks. Current layoffs in the post-secondary sector across Vancouver Island are only increasing economic difficulties on the Island and will impede the sector’s ability to assist in economic recovery. What is actually needed are major government investments in colleges and universities – a post-secondary “New Deal” which marshals significant government resources to use advanced education to tackle current unemployment and to set our communities on a path towards true long-term sustainability.

Signed,

Chris Ayles, President, Camosun College Faculty Association

David Black, President, Royal Roads University Faculty Association

Pieter Bosma, President, CUPE Local 3886, Royal Roads

Kenneth Christie, Vice President, Royal Roads University Faculty Association Erynne Grant, Labour Relations Officer, CUPE Local 2081, Camosun College

Sheryl Karras, UVic Chapter Chair, Professional Employees Association, UVic

Matthew Koch, Vice President, CUPE Local 4163 (Component 3), UVic

Chris Jaeger, President, Vancouver Island University Faculty Association

Lynne Marks, President, UVic Faculty Association

Tiffany McLaughlin, President, CUPE Local 1858, Vancouver Island University

Greg Melnechuk, President, CUPE Local 4163, UVic

Kirk Mercer, President, CUPE Local 951, UVic

Colleen Nelson, Chair, BCGEU Local 702, Vancouver Island University

Byron Spiers, President, CUPE Local 917, UVic

Keith Todd, President, CUPE Local 2081, Camosun College

Michelle Waite, President, CUPE Local 3479, North Island College

ALSO READ: COVID-19 a barrier for post-secondary students


 

Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Josie Osborne was sworn into the Legislature virtually on Nov. 24. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne named minister of municipal affairs

The position was previously held by Selina Robinson, who is the province’s new finance minister

Rori Denness throws a javelin during BC Summer Games in 2016. (Black Press Media file photo)
Port Alberni ponders bidding for 2026 B.C. Summer Games

Port Alberni last hosted the BC Winter Games in 2004

Victoria artisan Tina Neurauter, right, used to shop at Pot Luck Ceramics with her daughter from Port Alberni. Now Neurauter is selling her handmade soaps and bath products at Bibi J’s, a new enterprise in the former Pot Luck Ceramics building on Gertrude Street in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Former Pot Luck Ceramics location reimagined as Bibi J’s

Owner Helma Swinkels revives social enterprise with new name, vision

The Rollin Art Centre’s Mistletoe Market begins on Dec. 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre prepares for Mistletoe Market

Artisans and crafters are still needed for annual Christmas craft fair

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Gracie couldn’t stop nursing from her previous owner’s goats which was problematic given the goats were trying to be dried out to breed. Gracie now lives at A Home for Hooves. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Cowichan animal sanctuary gets international accreditation

A Home for Hooves farm sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney has spoken out about some veterans losing their Dimished Earning Capacity income. (Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror photo)
Blaney pens letter to minister about veteran supports

Concerned about veterans losing some income

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

Port McNeill councillor Derek Koel busts a rap to help promote the town’s active transportation plan. (Facebook video screenshot)
VIDEO: Vancouver Island councillor makes rap video to promote active transportation plan

Active transportation is a personal matter for councillor Derek Koel.

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

Most Read