Cambrian College seeks feedback for school’s future from Island focus group

Island professionals weigh in at Cambrian College strategic plan focus group. photo by Robin Burridge

MANITOULIN—Cambrian College hosted a focus group on Manitoulin last week aimed at gathering feedback for the school’s news 2015-2019 strategic plan.

“We are on a journey to realize Cambrian’s future,” began Rachel Gillespie, Cambrian College strategic planning facilitator, last Saturday at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre. “When Bill Best, our (Cambrian’s) new president came on board last summer he wanted to make a very different strategic plan. He felt that post secondary education itself hasn’t changed very much, but the world has changed drastically and we (the school) need to change in a radical way. We set out with a goal to engage everyone, with everyone’s opinion equally important, and we created a multi-faceted approach in order to achieve this.”

Ms. Gillespie explained that Cambrian began engaging individuals through ‘sparking conversation,’ which collected feedback from 1,000 people. On November 17 the school launched a social media focussed initiative, which doubled the number of engaged participants on the first launch day alone.

“Between in person and online we have engaged more than 6,000 people,” said Ms. Gillespie. “And focus groups like this are one component—it allows us to really dive into the subjects.”

From the online and in person engagement, Ms. Gillespie shared that 18 strategic themes emerged. All of these themes had to come up at least five different times during participant engagement and across two sectors (such as students, industry, faculty, community members etc.)

“We have always left the door open to allow people to come forward with further ideas and from this ‘open door’ policy, two more themes have since been added,” said Ms. Gillespie. “We went publically on our website and asked people to vote on the themes and determined a top 10.”

The top 10 strategic themes include: affordability; technology; student experience; internationalization; mental wellness, health and safety; employment ready; indigenous and aboriginal plus; First Nation education and experience; transferable skills; co-op and placement experience and flexibility.

“We also asked Grade 7 and 8s to visually describe what the future of post secondary education is to them,” said Ms. Gillespie. “They told us things that weren’t even on our radar.”

Throughout the focus group, participants were asked to dive more deeply into some of the strategic themes.

Petra Wall, former chair of the Cambrian College Advisory Committee, was one of the Island residents present on Saturday to provide feedback for the strategic plan.

“I believe all college courses should be free,” said Ms. Wall. “It is something that if people work for and get through (college) successfully, it should be free for them.”

“I also believe that Cambrian should be working more closely with employees, learning what the job needs are and guiding students to help meet these job needs,” continued Ms. Wall. “This can help fine tune what is needed for courses and specifically target jobs that need trained professionals.”

Cambrian is continuing to seek feedback for the strategic plan and encourages individuals to visit www.futurecambrian.ca. Individuals can share their ideas and opinions on the strategic themes and “join the conversation.”

Starting in March, Ms. Gillespie and her team will begin consolidating research and validating key findings before finally developing a strategic plan that is “reflective, responsive and supports enhanced growth for the organization through clearly established goals, objectives and measures.”

A soft launch of the plan’s vision and goals will occur in June 2015, with the officially launch to take place in September.