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Whistler Institute, BCIT, Lil’wat Nation team up to offer accredited post-secondary courses with a Sea to Sky-specific twist

The pilot project offers Whistlerites the opportunity to learn about everything from bookkeeping to Indigenous traditions without leaving the resort.
The Whistler Institute’s ongoing partnership with Vancouver-based BCIT’s School of Business and Media is resulting in a slate of part-time, in-person, accredited business and leadership courses launching in the resort this fall.

Every so often, you’ll hear a longtime local joking about earning a degree from the metaphorical University of Whistler. If the Whistler Institute and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) have anything to say about it, the phrase might not necessarily be a joke for much longer.

The Whistler Institute’s ongoing partnership with Vancouver-based BCIT’s School of Business and Media is resulting in a slate of part-time, in-person, accredited business and leadership courses launching in the resort this fall, specifically designed with the Whistler community in mind. Course topics were chosen based on feedback collected in recent years, including through a labour workforce survey conducted by Whistler Personnel Solutions and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce in November 2021, explained Suki Cheyne, executive director of the Whistler Institute.

“One of the overriding things that came out of that survey was demand for practical skills that could be applied in the workforce immediately,” she said, adding that the pilot project aligns with the Whistler Institute’s goal of enhancing educational opportunities for resort residents.

The courses include Bookkeeping for Small Business using Quickbooks; Managing Employee Performance and Conflict; Project Management Essentials; and Presenting & Analyzing Data with MS Excel in the Digital World. All will take place in the Whistler Chamber of Commerce boardroom, with each series of three-hour-long classes scheduled in the evenings and led by local instructors. The bookkeeping course kicked off earlier this month, with the others scheduled to begin in the coming weeks and months.

“It’s the same standard that BCIT teaches through all of its courses, but what we have the opportunity to do is to bring in local case studies, so that the application of that theory relates to the students and their experiences,” said Cheyne.

Added BCIT program developer Sonia Dhaliwal: “Instructors having that local knowledge of what is going on here in a smaller community or resort town, versus in the city, it makes a huge difference on how they deliver the course.”

The partnership itself, meanwhile, stems from a 2016 symposium that invited higher education providers to Whistler for a public discussion. Those conversations spun into a Memorandum of Understanding signed by BCIT and the Whistler Institute in 2019, representing their pledge to work on a pilot project that would deliver in-person business and leadership courses in Whistler.

“The original goal of the Memorandum of Understanding was to eliminate those time cost and travel barriers,” said Cheyne, which typically mean “people have to move out of the area unless they’re studying online.”

BCIT has also created “micro-credentials,” which Dhaliwal described as shorter-than- usual courses that still offer credits counting towards a larger degree or diploma.

“As we get more and more students into courses, then we can start expanding what types of courses we’re offering [in Whistler],” she added. “The long-term goal would be to [make it possible for] somebody to come to Whistler, work here, live here and get their full credentials.”

BCIT and The Whistler Institute have also welcomed the Lil’wat Nation into the fold this year. The three partners are collaborating to administer a pair of Indigenous and Intercultural Awareness courses in the coming months, led by instructor Yvonne Wallace. Part 1 will explore the First Nation’s history, traditions and culture over the course of one day, held at the Whistler Public Library, while the two-day Part 2 at the Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre will focus on Indigenous and intercultural awareness in the workplace.

Part 1 “would be suitable for everyone to take to assist them on their path to reconciliation,” said Cheyne, while “the second part is dedicated more towards employers and businesses, about making the workplace more inviting and attractive to people from Indigenous communities.”

BCIT’s Whistler courses are suitable for “anyone that’s looking for professional development opportunities,” said Cheyne, from those who are already in the workforce and aspiring to progress their career to recent high school graduates looking to get ahead on post-secondary credits while spending a gap year in Whistler. 

Dhaliwal also encouraged prospective students to register as early as possible, to ensure BCIT has accurate numbers and can plan course status accordingly.

For more information or to register, visit the Whistler Institute's website