October 23, 2020

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Red River College ready to get back to learning

Red River College safety director Jodi Pluchinski speaking about some of the changes at the college before the fall opening. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

Red River College safety director Jodi Pluchinski speaking about some of the changes at the college before the fall opening. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

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Lessons learned during the lockdown at Red River College include the importance of physical distancing and stockpiling hand sanitizer — but also, the school’s new president says, the need to graduate more information technology experts.

"What we’re noticing is the demand for technology and information technology, and those types of skills from industries that are emerging inside of our province," said Fred Meier, president and chief executive officer of Red River, during a news conference on the Notre Dame campus Wednesday.

With less than a month left until blended learning classes get underway, the college invited Economic Development and Training Minister Ralph Eichler and members of the media on a guided tour of the northwest Winnipeg campus.

Before showcasing how culinary arts, diagnostic imaging and apprenticeship students are catching up after learning disruptions in the spring, the newly appointed president spoke about the state of post-secondary education.

A COVID-19 warning sign at the entrance of a building at the Red River College. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

A COVID-19 warning sign at the entrance of a building at the Red River College. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

Less than half of the regular student population will engage in some in-person learning starting on Aug. 31. Each student will pay an extra $250 to cover the increased costs of cleaning supplies, public health signage and e-learning.

As the college enters an unprecedented school year, Meier said it will continue to focus on integrating the technological skills that are in high demand in the workforce into all of its programs.

The Pallister government has said it expects post-secondary institutions to tailor programming to labour demands and expand partnerships with industry.

E-commerce, web design and video game design are among specialized industries Meier said the college wants to train students for. These programs will likely be housed in the innovation centre that's under construction in the Exchange District. The building, which Meier said will be a space for businesses to incubate and problem-solve, is expected to be completed next summer.

While COVID-19 has forced the college to suspend intake for some of its hands-on programs, it is rolling out a number of new courses in the fall, which include a digital film and media production post-graduate diploma, communications management post-graduate diploma, game development advanced diploma and information security diploma.

At Red River College, the applied research department works on refurbishing an electric vehicle battery. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

At Red River College, the applied research department works on refurbishing an electric vehicle battery. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

The students who will return to campus in the fall can expect an online orientation that includes a PowerPoint presentation of COVID-19 precautions and a video that details the new "campus flow," which has been planned out with directional stickers and signs. 

Jodi Pluchinski, director of safety and health services, said her team walked through 1.5 million square feet on both the city and rural campuses to do a total of 700 assessments to figure out how to invite students back.

Students who have returned for catch-up work have already experienced the changes — pre-visit COVID-19 self-assessments, smaller class sizes, numbered desks, assigned toolboxes, limited washroom capacities, and demonstrations done via new cameras and screens rather than traditional large group gatherings. Where physical distancing is not possible, students and staff are required to wear masks.

Eichler said Wednesday the pandemic has changed the world and it will be critical for post-secondary institutions to adapt. He said there's a need for more aerospace professionals and nurses.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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