With the onset of autumn, staff members at the Stettler Learning Centre have enthusiastically delved into a new season of offering educational opportunities.
This is all unfolding at the organization’s new digs as of this past spring – the former Vision Credit Union building.
Classes officially started on Sept. 8th, said Erin Wilkie, the Learning Centre’s manager. “It’s definitely been a year of growth and a year of change.”
Peggy Vockeroth, a student adviser with Campus Alberta Central, agreed.
Campus Alberta Central is a partnership between Olds College and Red Deer College that provides post-secondary learning opportunities across Central Alberta.
“Then you look at the whole COVID-19 piece, and it has brought a lot of challenges – but it also brings opportunities,” she said.
“From the Campus Alberta side of it, with a good portion of post-secondary programs, they have gone online. So that opens a window,” she added, pointing to the broader spectrum of choices for rural students in particular.
“We support learners in rural Alberta, and we bring programs to a community based on that community needs.
Campus Alberta regional learning centres have been set up in Drumheller, Ponoka, Rocky Mountain House and of course right here in Stettler via the Learning Centre.
But the scope of who they can reach extends far beyond those specific communities.
It also fits in nicely with the mandate of the Learning Centre, added Wilkie, pointing out that staff aim to help students via what she calls a ‘laddering’ process.
”Our vision is to ‘ladder’ young adults coming out of high school.” And if they aren’t quite ready to make the leap into post-secondary studies, the Learning Centre is equipped to offer a range of programs to help them prepare for that continued educational journey.
That could include upgrading or earning their GED. There are also literacy and numeracy programs to further boost skills as well.
“They can also come in and get assistance with resume writing, for example,” she said, pointing out that other employability skills can be passed along to job-seekers, too. “That’s the ‘laddering’ that we envision coming out of the high school,” she said.
Vockeroth also explained how staff want to help students prepare for their next steps on their learning journey.
“We provide the support for the learner to take those paths for whatever journey they want to go on,” she explained.
The Community Learning Program also offers everything from Adult Literacy and Foundational Learning, English as a Second Language (ESL or ELL) and Workplace Readiness Programs to Staff Training Courses for Businesses, Family Early Literacy Programs and Community Interest Programs.
It’s also about building a comfortable environment for more mature students as well.
“For a mature adult to walk through the door back into a learning environment, it can be difficult. So you really need to invite them in, work with them and build a relationship with them,” said Vockeroth. “Whatever happened in someone’s past is done – you can’t change that. We can just go forward. But let’s plan for success!
“Everyone is someone when they walk through our door. Everyone is unique.
“The other part that we do is we partner up with industry,” said Vockeroth, adding that there is also room to customize these learning experiences to best serve both the organization/employer and the student.
“We can customize it based on what an employer is looking for. And I don’t necessarily mean that we as a staff will deliver it, but we have the connections that we can put it together for employers.”
Both women added that they aren’t convinced that most people in the community fully know how extensive the opportunities are via the Stettler Learning Centre, or how the organization can support both learners and employers.
Meanwhile, a major highlight for Learning Centre staff has been the move to the more accessible location in the downtown area.
It’s absolutely ideal for learning with lots of space, as seen, for example, where the practical nurse students learn new skills in a ‘hands-on’ way.
“The Health Care Aide students also do their labs here as well.”
Those two programs are through Red Deer College.
“The other piece that I think is key under the adult learning side of things is the tutoring aspect,” said Vockeroth, adding that the Centre is currently looking for more tutors to come onboard. “They are the gems in this community,” she added with a smile. “They are also volunteer positions, and it’s for at least one hour each week.”
Wilkie said tutors can help out with everything from English language learners to those getting support with academics.
They have also really shone through the pandemic, as they had to adapt to ‘virtual’ tutoring.
“I was really impressed that they took those online platforms and they ran with them – they really did amazing work,” said Wilkie. “There was still contact being made, for the most part, through it all.”
And for Wilkie, who started with the Learning Centre this past January, the new post has been a joy.
“At Stettler Learning Centre, we have the tools for anyone to succeed if they are willing to put in the effort; you will be hard-pressed to find a more supportive, caring and safe space to help you get to where you want to go than here.”