For the Whistler Institute, the beginning of a new year is usually reserved for planning.
Specifically, planning out the events and initiatives the organization wants to bring to reality in the months ahead. The non-profit is carrying out that phase this year with the added comfort and security provided by an influx of new funding at the end of 2022.
That includes a $10,000 gift from local legends Bob and Sue Adams, which supplements additional contributions from the privately-held Raindrop Foundation (its donations to the Whistler Institute have now reached a total of $110,000 since 2018) and funding from the McLean Group, which in 2021 committed to providing $25,000 annually to the Whistler Institute over a four-year period.
“I’d just like to reinforce how grateful we are to receive the donations that we have,” explained Whistler Institute executive director Suki Cheyne.
Being able to count on those funds coming in “is essential” for planning programming ahead of time, she added. Especially at this stage of 2023, “it provides some security for the rest of the year” and functions as the operating fund required to allow staff to take the time required to write thorough grant applications, Cheyne said.
Private donations represent one of several fundraising vehicles that help make it possible for the Whistler Institute to develop new, local education initiatives, with other opportunities like government grants, foundation grants and fees for service (like registration costs) also contributing to the pot. The outside support also “reinforces the belief that we have in our mission … to bring lifelong learning and learning opportunities to the local community,” Cheyne added.
The Whistler Institute launched in 2012 as the Whistler Education Group, with the goal of providing a wide variety of learning opportunities within the Sea to Sky corridor. Since then, the Institute has delivered 45 different courses to nearly 500 students, and is continuing working to develop even more offerings within the resort.
“So for instance, this year, one of the areas we would like to look at is early childhood educator training,” Cheyne explained. The funding “gives us the opportunity to investigate and explore that area further.”
This spring, the institute will also host two more accredited professional development courses in Whistler through its partnership with the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT): A “Presenting and analyzing data with MS Excel” course takes place on Tuesday evenings beginning April 11, while a Thursday-night “Managing employee performance and conflict” course kicks off on April 13. Registration opened for those courses—which are both taught by local instructors—on Feb. 22.
The courses would be ideal for Whistlerites who recently “started a new role or who have new responsibilities, where they need to use Excel in the workplace or if they’re starting to manage people or are planning to manage people,” Cheyne explained. “It’s going to impart skills and knowledge that they’re going to need to do their jobs.” The courses are aimed at building capacity and helping develop Whistler’s local workforce, Cheyne added.
New potential course topics the institute is currently exploring include full-time early childhood educator (ECE) training, Cheyne explained, while the organization also plans to continue working with local First Nations to once again deliver Indigenous & Intercultural Awareness programs in the coming months.
The institute is also preparing to host a mountain resort community housing symposium in late April as part of its Global Speaker Series. The Series has presented discussion-based events to more than 2,500 participants (some virtually, some in person) over the last four years.
The housing discussion in particular will be held “in collaboration with Canada West Ski Areas Association,” Cheyne explained. “We’re adding a session to the last day of their spring conference, and intend to make that session open to the general public.”
Something the Whistler Institute would like to do more of, she added, is “where there are visiting conferences—you’ve got all this knowledge and all these incredible specialists in Whistler—is making that knowledge and some of those specialists available to a local community, so that that knowledge doesn’t just come here and disappear with the conference, but it gets shared with the local community as well.”
Also in 2023, the Whistler Institute hopes to work on spinning its Global Speaking Series into an intimate “Salon Series” that’s currently in development. The intent, said Cheyne, is to offer local audiences the opportunity to hear from an industry expert before attending a social to further discuss the topic at hand.