There are currently no local university campuses for high school graduates on the West Shore and a new report is recommending a campus be built in the area.

The campus is one of the recommendations outlined in a feasibility study paid for the B.C. government and led by Royal Roads University. Parents, School District 62 (Sooke), First Nations, municipalities and two other post-secondary institutions also assessed post-secondary education needs and accessibility issues on the West Shore. The final report, called Assessing Post-Secondary Education Needs in the West Shore, was submitted to the province in March 2019.

“This report concludes that West Shore learners (SD 62 graduates and adults pursuing advanced education) would benefit from a new local post-secondary education option. Based on key factors including current high school graduation transition rates and the proximity of other options, a new undergraduate post-secondary campus with an innovative delivery model would best meet local need. A new West Shore campus would also provide a new, viable option for students from the rest of the South Island and Capital Regional District,” the report reads.

The other recommendations include an education focus on technological, data and design literacy, as well as on critical and systems thinking, cultural agility, and entrepreneurship.In addition to the new skills, students are also looking for dynamic and flexible learning, such as online courses.

According to the report, West Shore students face many challenges when it comes to post-secondary education and are transitioning to university at much lower rates than their counterparts in other parts of B.C., with 17.2 per cent of graduates attending university, almost half the provincial average of 34.1 per cent.

“If we understand the numbers which says we are under half the average of BC we know there is a problem and it’s about affordability so we have to make education affordable we have to make it accessible and that’s what we need to do here,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young.

Six-year high school completion rates are at a 20-year high in School District 62 (76.3% in 2016-17) and have generally trended upward since 1999-20 (63.1%), but are below the provincewide average of 84%. Direct transition rates of high school graduates to all types of post-secondary institutions in School District 62 lag behind the provincial average. The five-year (2011-12 to 2015-16) historic average is 43.2 per cent compared to 52.5 per cent in all of B.C.

The 2018 edition of the B.C. Labour Market Outlook forecast 903,000 job openings in the next decade until 2028, due to a mixture of retirements and economic growth. About 77 per cent of job openings will require some level of post-secondary education or training.

However, the report states there are limited options for School District 62 graduates looking to complete post-secondary education locally. Royal Roads University does not offer a Year 1-2 program for domestic undergraduate students. The University of Victoria and Camosun College (Interurban Campus and Lansdowne Campus) receive the majority of School District 62 graduates but “neither are geographically situated to ideally serve students who wish to stay in their home West Shore communities. Research has shown that post-secondary participation rates are higher when there is a local option available.”

Other barriers listed are the lack of affordable housing near UVic and Camosun campuses, along with commute times for those who choose to live out on the West Shore to save money.

“Not only are long commute times a significant deterrent to enter post-secondary education, but they also make it very challenging for students to find employment to support the cost of their education,” the report reads.

On Tuesday, the provincial government announced $1.5 million for a full business case for expanding post-secondary opportunities for studies. The business case will include advanced student enrolment modelling, infrastructure needs, site selection and design, a detailed financial analysis and timelines.

“I’m hopeful within the next year we are able to make some announcements,” said Young.

West Shore municipalities include the City of Colwood, the City of Langford, the District of Metchosin, the District of Highlands and the Town of View Royal, as well as the District of Sooke. According to Statistics Canada, the West Shore is one of the fastest growing regions in Canada, with a population increase of 49 per cent between 2001 and 2016, and projected growth of 27 per cent over the next decade. This rapid growth is skewed toward a younger demographic. The region has a larger share of persons under the age of 15 years (17.1 per cent), compared to the provincial average (14.9 per cent).

“Future kids will be able to hopefully just walk down the block or a short bus ride or a short drive or a short walk to be able to go to a post-secondary institution,” said Sooke School District Trustee Ravi Parmar.

Once the business case is finalized the ministry says they will determine next steps.

Read the full report below: