Great Plains College
A regional post-secondary institution serving Southwestern Saskatchewan, Great Plains College was formed in 2008 through a merger between Cypress Hills and Prairie West colleges. Together, the two formed Great Plains College in an effort to expand services and offer a suite of enhanced educational opportunities to college students across the surrounding communities.
With campuses in Swift Current, Kindersley, and Warman, as well as satellite sites in Biggar, Maple Creek, and Rosetown, Great Plains College offers a range of 18 diploma, degree, and certificate programs. As part of Saskatchewan’s regional college system, Great Plains College caters to more than 4,500 students each year.
“We are your classic model of a rural, multi-campus institution with a corporate centre and then smaller campuses and program centres,” David Keast, President of Great Plains College, told The Canadian Business Journal. “We are a good example of a high functioning regional college in a non-urban setting.”
Among its most popular programs, Great Plains College sees significant demand for Early Childhood and Youth Care Worker studies, as well as increasing demand for the trades and technical training. The Association of Canadian Community Colleges has recognized the skilled trades front and centre in its agenda, particularly given the emerging labour market shortages in these industries.
“Technical institutes and regional colleges are very much at the centre of the game. We are seeing a shift in thinking around the value of post-secondary education, and the different types that are available. We are seeing the end of the days of people getting a philosophy or psychology degree because there are no jobs for those people,” Keast detailed. “In contrast, a journeyman electrician or welder is immediately in the industry and the dollars are significant. We are making sure that students walk out of our institution into a job.”
Vision in Leadership
In-demand programming continues to draw students to Great Plains College, so much in fact that many of its programs and courses have reached or are near enrolment capacity. Many of its skilled trades programs, such as Welding, Applied Electrician, and Power Engineering, have student waiting lists, many as long as the current class lists.
“We could double our intake in some fields as the demand is extremely high. Programs related to mining technology, potash, uranium, etc., are starting to take off as well,” summarized Keast, who joined the college in July 2012. Since joining the organization, Keast has made several internal changes to student services, registration and admissions in an effort to further improve and streamline the educational offering of Great Plains College.
“Most colleges run the same complement of programs, but what differentiates us is that we have a little bit of specialized programming and we are also a little bit bigger than some of the other regional colleges in Saskatchewan,” Keast explained. “Our culture is friendly, student-centered, accommodating, and supportive. We have high academic standards, we are engaging for students, and a good learning experience is had here.”
Great Plains College recognizes that its organizational culture plays a key role in continuing to draw students to its campuses. At Great Plains College, students are immersed in a supportive, hands-on learning environment that applies the industry skills and readiness to compete in various job markets. Looking toward the future, continued enrolment growth is a major pillar for Great Plains College, and the college has not shied away from that fact.
“I think that the college is doing well but it could also be doing more in terms of access to post-secondary education,” Keast concluded. “I am also emphasizing new program development and increasing student capacity levels in our already existing programs. A key component of that is our partnerships with school districts, other post-secondary institutions, industries, as well as external community stakeholders.”