The Trail campus of Selkirk College is bucking a region-wide trend of declining post-secondary enrolment with a 22.5 per cent increase in students in 2011.
In all, Trail was up 62 students from 276 in 2010, while Nelson’s three campuses dropped 26 students — from 559 to 533 — and Castlegar was down eight per cent, or 84 students, to 960.
Both Grand Forks and Nakusp held steady at 61 and 31 students, respectively, and Kaslo was down 33.3 per cent, or 17 students, from 51 to 34.
The anomaly in Trail is linked to two new programs that have attracted more new students, said Barry Auliffe communications and development director for Selkirk.
He said the addition of the government-sponsored Employment Skills Training (EST) program through one-time funding — $431,000 in total — helped contribute to the rise.
“It wasn’t offered last year so that made the numbers jump up in Trail while others were flatter,” he said.
EST is a 24-week program that began in July. In all, there were 48 students in the program directed at people who were either unemployed or under employed, to give them the basic skills to be able to enter the workforce.
As well, people learned entry administrative and clerical positions, including simple bookkeeping and keying. In January the same program will be offered in Nelson.
Auliffe noted that the province had anticipated there would be a shortage in some areas of the workforce, such as early childhood care, and pumped more training dollars into those areas.
The Early Childhood Care program accounted for the second grant of $250,000 the Trail campus received, attracting another 40 students for the 20-week cource. It will be offered again in February.
Overall, skills upgrading was up 208 per cent across the campuses for the entire college — the province’s attempt to head off skills shortages — while university arts and sciences was down 14 per cent (60 students) to 369 people in 2011.
The largest drop in enrolment for Selkirk was industry and trades training, which fell by 20.9 per cent, or 38 students, to 144 overall.
The overall drop did not concern Auliffe since the numbers the college dealt with were quite small, so any drop would be noticeable. In Castlegar the university transfer program led the drop.
“Generally, that’s a softer area for everyone right now,” he said.
The university transfer course enrolments tend to be up and down, Auliffe pointed out. If the downward spiral continues, it will often be linked to what the marketplace is doing, he said, and what areas people see themselves going into for careers.
“And being a smaller college it doesn’t take a big swing in numbers to make a difference like that,” he said.