NIC Early Childhood Care and Education students are working toward their ECCE certification on the West Coast. Back row, left to right: Maureen Tom, Freda Thomas, Rae Frank, Arlene Touchie, Donna Louie, Sky Touchie Patrick. Front, left to right: Justine Frank, Joey David and Chris Jack. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Tla-o-qui-aht and NIC bring early childhood care and education to the West Coast

North Island College works with communities to offer accessible education options

Vancouver Island’s West Coast will soon have nine new qualified early childhood educators, thanks to an in-community training partnership between North Island College and the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation.

Tla-o-qui-aht Education Manager Iris Frank said West Coast communities benefit from having more credentialed early childhood educators.

“Limited access to childcare has a big impact on families, whether it’s a parent’s ability to work, or go to back to school to train for a new career,” said Frank, who originally approached NIC about bringing the program to the West Coast.

Having more qualified childcare providers enables more people to work or return to school, which in turn, benefits the entire community, she added.

NIC has a long history of accessible, in-community education on the West Coast and is proud to work with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to support student success, said Theresa Gereluk, department co-chair and instructor in NIC’s Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) program.

“We’ve found offering training where people live, rather than making students travel to their nearest campus, makes a big difference to student success,” she said. “It allows students to stay with their families, community and support system while they go back to school.”

The students will complete their training in the spring of 2019, after which they will complete 500 hours of work experience and then be able to apply for their five-year Early Childhood Education certification.

Student Donna Louie lived in Vancouver for 22 years, where she felt out of touch with her culture. The experience was a “very expensive, busy, high stress, booming time in my life full of distractions,” she said. “When I finish this program, I look forward to learning more about my culture and participating with cultural gatherings as I feel we lost this when I was young.”

Louie jumped at the opportunity to join the program and plans to work in a local First Nations-run daycare on graduation.

“It is important for ECCE to be here on the West Coast because I feel both Ucluelet First Nation and Tofino First Nation members see us work hard to become active role models to the children in our community,” she said. “I feel so proud that I am inspiring others that have told me they want to take ECCE now.”

The partnership is possible with funding from the Canada BC Jobs Grant secured by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, as well as their in-kind support.

To learn more about all of NIC’s Early Childhood Care and Education programs, visit www.nic.bc.ca/health-human-services.

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