Two big announcements for the College of New Caledonia today.

In Prince George, a new medical sonography – also known as ultrasound – diploma program will take in its first batch of students in the fall of 2018. It will be linked with the school’s existing medical radiography diploma and will train 16 students per year.

“We’ve always had more students than we can handle in our original medical radiography program,” says Dr. Glenda Vardy Dell, Dean of the School of Health Sciences. “We’ve always left students behind on a waitlist. Most of those students have northern addresses – many then will choose to go to another school. Some of them we lose from the profession because they can’t get into a program.”

Currently, students have to go to BCIT in order to access training in sonography. Vardy Dell says CNC’s program will be well-suited to training northern practitioners.

“This is very significant because students will have some options. They can do just the radiography or they can do the sonography as well. I think people from the north will probably opt for the dual credential. What’s more important is that rural centers want people that are duly credentialed – people that can do the radiography piece and the sonography piece. They’re more suited for some of these smaller centers that are difficult to recruit to.”

She says that many rural communities have part-time positions for both radiography and sonography – but it’s difficult to attract qualified practitioners to part time positions.

“Nobody wants to go to a small community and only work part-time. If we can combine some of those skill sets, I think that will meet our northern communities capacity little bit better.”

The province is providing $1.5 million dollars for equipment and renovations to support the new program, $494,000 in annual operating funding and $400,000 for one-time start-up costs. The first graduates are expected in 2020.

The second big announcement for CNC came from the Vanderhoof campus.

“We’re providing $1.7 million in funding to purchase the three buildings and then begin the work of looking at how the programming can be amalgamated,” says Shirley Bond, Minister for Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. “Today is about adding capacity increasing program options and also creating quality learning spaces.”

The  buildings sit on 2.38 acres of land. The new campus will feature a much newer building that will house several CNC programs, including trades. It is located at 139 East Fir Street.

Bond says both the campus’ current facilities present challenges for both students and staff.

“One of the areas that Vanderhoof has been concerned about is the fact that they have three separate buildings, very difficult circumstances to teach and learn in. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the mayor and others, along with John Rustad, looking at how we enhance regional capacity. Today is about that, both here with the sonography program – first-of-its-kind outside of BC – and secondly the addition to the funding and the support for the Vanderhoof campus.”

Bond says better facilities and more seats in local programs will translate into graduates more likely to deploy their skills in the north.