Asked again about firefighter/paramedic program in Thompson, UCN still says it can’t lead delivery

A second attempt by the City of Thompson to get University College of the North (UCN) to join it in offering a firefighter/paramedic training program through the Thompson campus has received the same answer as the first: thanks for asking but no.

UNC president Doug Lauvstad wrote a letter to Mayor Colleen Smook on Oct. 23 after a meeting with the city was held Oct. 15.

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“While UCN recognizes the clear need in the City of Thompson for a fire/paramedic program, unfortunately, UCN cannot offer the expertise, resources and accreditation that would be required to lead the delivery of this program,” Lauvstad wrote. “I recognize that this is not the direction you had hoped our discussion would take, however I believe that this has been UCN’s consistent message throughout the conversations with your staff over the past number of months.”

Lauvstad said UCN continues to offer in-kind support such as the provision of space at the Thompson campus for the program and delivery of a preparatory program for potential students of the still-theoretical program.

One of the Thompson 2020 initiatives to diversity Thompson’s economy in light of the declining number of residents employed in mining by Vale Manitoba Operations, which is set to lay off more workers in the coming weeks, development of the fire-paramedic program was led by the city’s former economic development officer Keisha Davis, who is continuing in the role on a contract basis following her resignation until a replacement for her can be found.

“[Davis] developed our fire-paramedic training program and has brought that to about 99 per cent deliverable though we have to work through some hiccups with UCN on that,” said city manager Anthony McInnis at the Oct. 5 council meeting when council approved the contract with Davis.

Lauvstad previously told the city in an Aug. 20 response to a letter from Smook that the post-secondary institution wants to see the successful implementation of a firefighter/paramedic training program, but can only offer in-kind contributions towards it.

Currently, Manitoba Emergency Services College in Brandon is the only place in the province where someone can become certified as a firefighter and paramedic simultaneously.

At one time, the goal was to begin such a program for 16 students this September, but that timeline has been adjusted. Thompson 2020 worked with the City of Thompson as well as Keewatin Tribal Council and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak to submit a proposal to Manitoba Economic Development and Training for such a program. The Churchill Regional Economic Development Fund  committed $153,000 to initiate the program, if approved by the province.

UCN does offer paramedic training at its campus in The Pas and has previously offered it in Norway House in association with a private sector training company.

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