A new training facility with an estimated value of nearly $50 million will help Camuson College meet the future demand for health care professionals, says the president of the college.
“The announcement was timely, “ said Sherri Bell shortly after the official announcement Thursday held at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE). “Every year, colleges and universities hand in their capital plan, and a new health building has been at the top of our list for many, many, many years.”
Funding for the project comes from three sources: the provincial government ($31 million), the federal government ($12.5 million) and Camosun College ($5 million).
Andrew Wilkinson, provincial minister of advanced education, announced the project on behalf of the provincial government and Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of innovation, science and economic development, who had sent a representative.
The new four-storey building will be located at Camosun’s Inter-urban campus and house 18 health sciences programs, such as community mental health, athletic and exercise therapy, and nursing, as well as university-transfer health programs.
In doing so, it responds to the current space crunch that currently confronts students in Camosun’s human health and service programs, said Bell.
“When you look at our aging facilities and the capacity rates, we are very full,” she said.
Current plans call for the construction to get underway later this spring, with completion scheduled for spring 2018. Once completed, almost all human health and service programs will exist under a single roof, thereby creating synergies and facilitating learning across disciplines, said Bell.
“It will allow…for collaboration and the kind of work that happens in real medical and human health and services facilities,” she said.
The building’s proximity to PISE, for example, will create synergies in the fields of wellness, athletic therapy, and sports and exercise, Bell said.
Bell said Thursday’s announcement is not just a “fantastic” investment for students attending Camosun, but also for the community at large.
“Health care is an issue,” she said. “We want to make sure that our students typically stay in the area and can support a healthy environment for [southern Vancouver Island].”
Wilkinson made a similar point.
More broadly, it marks a response to certain demographic realities, as the population of British Columbia ages. This development means that fewer British Columbians will work in human health and services programs. At the same time, more people will need to use the very services that are about to lose qualified professionals, thereby creating a demand for new ones.
“We have a demographic profile for what the demand will be for health professionals,” said Wilkinson. “That also builds in the current cohort of people working in fields as diverse as speech pathology and nursing, so we can anticipate demand in those fields and train the people to be ready when the time comes.”
Offering a longer view, Wilkinson said the province is trying to reverse a historical trend. “British Columbia in the 20th century imported a lot of health professionals and we intend to train our own in the 21st century,” he said.
Thursday’s announcement was Wilkinson’s second major appearance on campus in less than a year. On Feb. 25, 2016, he helped to officially open the college’s new Centre for Trades Education and Innovation, a project which the provincial government funded with almost $30.
Bell expects that the new health science centre will have a similar effect as the Centre for Trades Education and Innovation, freeing up space and creating synergies.
Just as it was the case with the Centre for Trades Education and Innovation, Camosun will have to fundraise $5 million. The provincial and federal funding will pay for the buildings, but not the technology and programming, said Bell, adding the announcement speaks to the confidence that the provincial government has in the quality of the eduction that Camosun offers.
“It does speak to confidence in what we are doing,” said Bell. “It also speaks to excellence in programming. It speaks to our ability to be responsive. We just did our new trades building and it came in on budget and on time. So we do have that track record.”
The provincial and federal governments are also investing a total of $15 million in the facilities and programming at Royal Roads University.