With post-secondary education in Whistler being perhaps the hottest topic in the community and two groups vying for council’s favour in getting their projects moved forward, a third group has entered the discussion.
The Whistler Education Group (WEG) is a coalition of community stakeholders looking at organizing an educational group dedicated to exploring the potential for future educational opportunities using existing infrastructure and resources.
Some of those stakeholders involved include psychologist Stephen Milstein, who’s also chair of the group,Sue Adams, founder of the Grocery Store and board director of the Whistler Arts Council and Laurie Grant a lecturer at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) who happens to live in Whistler.
Others who have lent their support to the WEG include Doug Forseth, vice president of planning, government relations and special projects for Whistler Blackcomb, Roger Soane, general manager of the Nita Lake Lodge and chair of the Tourism Whistler board and Tamsin Plaxton, co-president and managing director for Tamwood International College.
Additionally, the Whistler Arts Council and Whistler Blackcomb have lent their support to the group.
Having nothing to do with the Whistler U or Capilano University proposals that are already in municipal hall for consideration, the WEG is currently conducting its own study to measure the feasibility of such opportunities.
“Our attempt here is to bring together a group of volunteers and we believe we have no vested interest,” said Milstein. “When I say that, we believe that when this town booms we will do better, will the arts council do better? Will my practice to better? Will the mountain do better? Yes. But other than that interest in seeing the town do well, we don’t stand to benefit by tourism education, we’re not in the business of bringing tourists here other than the interest of the community.”
According to Milstein, Whistler is full of expert individuals and plenty of infrastructure to support holding specialized courses and what the WEG hopes to do is to put feelers out there to see if there’s enough community support to begin organizing such a movement.
“There could be credited, unaccredited, special interest, training and personal development courses offered by people here or willing to come here and we think education is that broad,” said Milstein, noting that they aren’t looking specifically at post-secondary education but rather general education. “The Whistler Arts Council is already doing something like that with their artist workshops and we’d like to see more of that.”
For Grant, Whistler would be the ideal location to host her lectures and offer courses and she would like to see others be able to put their skills to use in a similar fashion.
“There are all of these people who use their skills in other communities, like me, I run lectures at BCIT and I do workshops in other locations and I choose to live in Whistler, but I don’t work in Whistler,” she said.
As for the Whistler U and Capilano proposals, Milstein said that the WEG is not opposed or for either and would be willing to work with any proponents so long as the community receives the most benefit out of it.
“The big question is, ‘Should we build?’” said Milstein. “We know there are great debates out there about building and our goal is to look at the existing resources in this community, both hard assets like buildings, equipment and the people.”
“I’ve really wondered what we’re doing with all of our facilities out here,” she said. “There are a lot of facilities here and how are we using all of these purpose-built buildings and how we can make it benefit everybody is really something to look at.
“The better we manage these facilities the healthier our community can be.”
As for the feasibility study, that’s currently being conducted by a group of BCIT students as part of the school’s business program coordinated by Grant. The study is due for completion in August and where the WEG goes from there will depend on the results.
“We believe education is a market that can be built and there is a wealth of resources in this town to draw upon,” said Milstein.