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Member Spotlight

The Economy Builders: Camosun College

By September 23, 2021No Comments

Camosun College has grown by leaps and bounds since it opened its doors in 1971, expanding from one campus to two (plus five partner learning sites) and from 980 students to 16,000 per year.

Q+A with Camosun College

Today, 50 years after it launched, Camosun College is widely known as a world-class post-secondary institute offering over 160 academic and applied learning programs and providing employers with trained graduates ready for work. Camosun Innovates, the college’s research and development hub, connects applied learning and applied research, design thinking, interdisciplinary inquiry, productivity improvement and tech-savvy invention. It is B.C.’s first Technology Access Centre and a Canadian leader in practical problem-solving.

Camosun College maintains an intimate, accessible learning environment with an average class size of 24 — which is also the average age of its students. A member of SIPP since 2018, Camosun is an important economic regional and provincial keystone, contributing an estimated $1 billion a year in economic impact to B.C.

Geoff Wilmshurst, Vice-President Partnerships for Camosun, and Executive Director, Camosun Foundation, shares how the college’s work helps grow and shape our region’s economy, what they envision for their future, and what makes our region an attractive place to live, work and play.

Geoff Wilmshurst, Vice-President Partnerships for Camosun, and Executive Director, Camosun Foundation.

Why did you join South Island Prosperity Partnership?

Camosun believes that SIPP plays a critical role in the development of a diverse regional economy. As the regional community college, we want to be front and centre around the discussions of where the region is going in terms of industry development so that we can be responsive to the training and education needs of those industries.

What do you see as key to growing a resilient, robust economic future for our region? 

Diversity is key.  Creating an economy that is less reliant on just a few economic buckets is important to the region.  Greater Victoria already has many of the building blocks in place for that growth including a strong education system, health care, cultural amenities and an incredible natural environment.  However, we need to improve our housing affordability and increased wages if we are going to attract and retain new workers.

What is our region’s secret sauce when it comes to competing internationally to attract quality talent, businesses with household sustaining jobs, and investment?

The secret sauce is undoubtedly the quality of life this region has to offer.  This includes the natural environment, the great schools from K-12 through to post-secondary which are producing young people with incredible talent.  Our goal should be to ensure as many of those young people are able to stay here and thrive in businesses that offer well-paid jobs.

What are you most excited about in terms of your own organization’s plans and potential?

At Camosun, we are now entering the second half of our first one-hundred years.  We have a new President starting in January and with him a new strategic plan.  Our potential to reach a new generation of students with the development of new and exciting programs is huge.  We have always been responsive to the needs of the community and local industry.  I believe that the film and marine industries are the two areas where we will make a key educational contribution in the next decade.

What’s one thing about your organization you really want people to know that they probably don’t know?

Camosun is the largest and most comprehensive College in British Columbia with the most diverse international student population.

What challenges are you most invested in helping our community overcome and why?

Camosun has always been at the forefront of access to education and it remains our most important mission. Access addresses the needs of those who may not have had the opportunity to complete their education and provides others with a step up to improve their skills and employability.  For others, it is the beginning of a journey to further education.  It all addresses poverty, and the problems associated with poverty, which is a key community concern and one within which Camosun is fully engaged. 

What lessons have most profoundly impacted you since the pandemic sent shockwaves through our community and economy?

At Camosun, we realized quite quickly that we could make rapid changes to the way we deliver education and at the same time, with so much applied learning we discovered we could provide a safe environment for teaching and learning throughout the pandemic.  Overall it has been the resilience of the College community that has been the revelation.

When you envision the South Island region in 2040, what will have changed? What does our future look like?

I think the region will have a significantly larger and younger population with a more diverse economy.  We will have significantly more electric vehicles on the road along with increased bike commuting infrastructure.  Our post-secondary institutions will be even more integrated in the way we deliver programs and those delivery methods will increasingly be multi-modal.  We will see many more people choosing to live here but working for organizations that don’t have a physical footprint here. The downtown core will have increased urban density as will other regional nodes.  We will have longer, drier, warmer summers and more snow in the winter.  We will continue to be the destination of choice for thousands of Canadians to live and work.