Turnout high at Whistler's post-secondary open house 

Task force presents findings, seeks public feedback moving forward

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There are rich education program opportunities for Whistler with no shortage of options and now is the time for the public to have their input, say members of the resort's Learning and Education Task Force.

With education being a potential cornerstone of future growth at the resort, the task force held its first open house to present its findings. It drew 101 members of the public to the Whistler Conference Centre on April 4.

"We're really pleased with the numbers (of people that turned out)," Gwyn Symmons, the head of the task force, said in an interview.

"We've been talking about education and its role in diversifying the economy and its potential value socially as well. What the task force has done is bring forward a lot of critical information for the community. We've got to get the input from the community and provide it to council in June."

In his public presentation, Symmons said that since the creation of the task force by Whistler Council in the fall of 2012, there had been "a rich and caring discussion" by its members with the aim of developing recommendations to advance and evaluate education opportunities.

This included hearing presentations by nine existing and potential post-secondary education providers including Quest University Canada, The Sauder School of Business, Capilano University, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, The Whistler Education Group and Whistler International Campus.

Options outlined included arts, sports, executive education, employer/professional skills training, providing select programs or courses, and potentially supporting the creation of a full campus (For a definition of each, see the box below).

The potential economic impact of such a facility on Whistler, along with its impact on Whistler 2020, the Official Community Plan, the Corporate Plan and the 2012-2014 Council Action Plan were also explored.

Symmons said the task force wants to determine which option is the most sustainable, along with what might be the most popular. He stressed the importance of public participation at this stage in the process, with a questionnaire on the options being made available at the open house.

"This open house is going to be really crucial... input is very much a community process," Symmons said.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, who is also on the task force, was encouraged by the public turnout.

"I am very pleased to see the number of people here. That is terrific. It shows the level of interest in the topic. I haven't heard anyone being critical about the process, people think it is good that council took the time to create the task force and develop this framework," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"We have to get this questionnaire process completed, tabulated, and back to the task force for consideration and the final report will be drafted and submitted to council in June."

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