Post-secondary education is fundamental to Alberta’s future

Myles Chykerda

July 02, 2020


Published onine at RMOTODAY

Over the past few weeks, there have been two announcements pertaining to post-secondary and the arts in the Bow Valley.

First, the Bow Valley College Canmore campus will be permanently closed, and second, 284 employees of the Banff Centre will be permanently laid-off.

There must be more to our post-COVID recovery than simply reopening the economy. Now is the time to invest more in both post-secondary and arts and cultural opportunities as we start rebuilding a more sustainable, diverse economy for the future.

Education at any level is not just about memorizing subject matter. It is about creating thinkers and doers. It is about learning, but also questioning the presented material.

Learners are challenged to question the status quo, conduct research, and become creators of new businesses, of jobs, and new technology.

Many post-secondary institutions are including more work placements in programs. These placements should not be seen as just an opportunity for learners to understand the complexity of a workplace, but employers should also embrace the opportunity to learn from students and engage with new theories, new technologies and new methods leading to higher levels of productivity.

Post-secondary education is fundamental to Alberta’s future.

The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, which is a critical part of Alberta’s post-secondary network, should also be considered as foundational to the economic recovery of both Bow Valley and Alberta.

A report prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development notes that the creative economy is more resilient than most. Marisa Henderson, the chief of UNCTAD’s creative economy program, said that “the performance of the creative economy is encouraging and shows it is thriving through the intersection of culture, technology, business and innovation.”

Arts and culture is key to re-building our tourism industry, again not just in the Bow Valley but across the province. Now is the time to shift to a more experiential tourism product throughout Alberta.

It was just announced that the government is providing operational funds to the major destination marketing organizations (DMO) including Calgary, Edmonton, Banff and Lake Louise, and Jasper plus some funds to smaller DMOs including Canmore.

While there is urgency in providing funds for immediate operational needs, it is important that these organizations take time to plan for a more sustainable tourism industry for the future, and arts and culture can play a role in these plans across the province.

The most important piece to creating sustainability for arts, culture, tourism, and all levels of education is funding. Money must come either directly through the provincial budget, or by policy changes such as modifying the Municipal Government Act to enable municipalities to consider local levies targeted at infrastructure or economic development within their communities.

The Bow Valley has been devastated by COVID-19. As we see our communities become busier with each passing day, it is important that we think about our future and specifically how arts and culture and an appreciation for our natural environment will be part of our long-term sustainable tourism plans and how education, specifically in creativity and technology, can diversify our economy.