New Centre of Excellence in Early Learning coming to NIC

NIC ECCE student Paul W. Redekopp works with toddlers in the Ladybug Room at the Beaufort Children’s Centre at NIC’s Comox Valley campus. The Beaufort Centre will be expanded thanks to new provincial funding.

A new centre dedicated to Early Childhood Educators and new child care spaces will be coming to the Comox Valley, thanks to a new $14.2 million investment from the Province and support from the Government of Canada through the 2021-2022 to 2025-2026 Canada-British Columbia Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement.

The two-storey centre will be an expansion to the current Beaufort Childcare Centre at North Island College’s Comox Valley campus. It will include both classroom space for NIC’s early childhood care and education programs, as well as 75 new child care spaces from British Columbia’s New Spaces Fund.

“We know there is a critical demand for child care spaces across the region, and we’ve heard from providers that one of the biggest barriers to opening more spaces is finding qualified early childhood educators to work in the centres,” said Kathleen Haggith, Dean with the Faculty of Health and Human Services. “This project will allow us to address both of these critical community issues together.”

The 2019 Comox Valley Child Care Action Plan identified access to child care as a significant concern for families and providers in the Comox Valley. The additional spaces will help Beaufort Childcare Centre address waitlist pressures on its existing 53 spaces.

“By investing in projects that create new licensed child care spaces and support more early childhood educators in choosing a career in early learning and child care, we are making a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system a reality,” added Jenna Sudds, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. “Together with our provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, we are working to increase access to high-quality, inclusive, flexible, and affordable early learning and child care for all families in Canada.”

“Early childhood educators are dedicated professionals who provide early learning and child care for our children at some of the most important times in their lives, which is why we are working hard through our ChildCareBC plan to get more people into this important career path,” said Grace Lore, Minister of State for Child Care. “Investing in a project like this, which offers educational opportunities as well as child care spaces, is a win for early childhood education students, children, their families, and our communities as a whole.”

Along with a demand for spaces, the demand for early childhood educators continues to grow. The BC Labour Market Outlook 2022 forecasts 1,590 job openings in early childhood education on Vancouver Island by 2032.

At NIC, 233 students have graduated from early childhood care and education programs in the last five years, with another 57 having graduated this June. The programs are offered in a variety of different formats, including full-time and part-time evening and weekend cohorts with face-to-face, hybrid or online delivery options. This coming fall, the programs are available for both international and domestic students in Campbell River, Comox Valley, Port Alberni, Port Hardy and Ucluelet and in partnership with Indigenous communities.

“Families in the Comox Valley rely on child care to pursue employment and education opportunities and that is why we are working with North Island College to expand access to early childhood education,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. “As a part of our Stronger BC: Future Ready Action Plan, we are working together with the public post-secondary institutions to create more education and employment opportunities where they are needed the most.”

The current Beaufort Centre will continue to operate during the expansion. Construction is expected to start in spring 2024, with the goal to have the centre open with the NIC Student Housing Commons in fall 2025.

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