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Class sets new standard

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Nov 22/06) - The mark set by recent graduates of the observer-communicator program at Nunavut Arctic College in Rankin Inlet may someday be equalled, but it will never be surpassed.

The class was the first in program history to have a 100 per cent graduation rate.

The accomplishment was a ringing endorsement of the decision to move the program to Rankin Inlet from Fort Smith, NWT.

The class was the second to complete the program in Rankin, with the first group having a 50 per cent graduation rate this past July.

Bill Taylor instructs the program with Paul Constantineau.

Taylor said the change to the Kivalliq campus has been positive in every conceivable way.

"I'm biased, of course, but I can't think of one negative aspect of the decision to move the program here," said Taylor.

"We can't expect a 100 per cent grad rate every time, but we've put infrastructure in place that is going to lead to a consistently high success rate."

In the past, Nunavut students who went to Fort Smith had to deal with culture shock and various distractions.

Taylor said while Rankin may not be home to the vast majority of those who come for the program, they're still among beneficiaries in a Nunavut community.

He said college staff try as hard as they can to make the students feel at home during their stay.

"Even in the course itself, there are things we do in Nunavut that may not be done in the NWT or the Yukon.

"We employ a more Nunavut-specific approach and we also get real Nunavut weather here.

"The weather training they get in Rankin is exactly what they're going to see when they go home.

"That's a big thing for the certification and the experience in the field."

Taylor said the recruiting process played a huge role in the 100 per cent grad rate.

"If you don't recruit properly, you don't give the participants an opportunity to be successful.

"We've had times in the past when people would come into the course and work hard, but they just didn't have the basic math skills necessary to master the material.

"Recruitment is the first key to a successful program."

Taylor and Constantineau put a great deal of effort into each class.

The two promote student empowerment and are known as strict disciplinarians.

Students know if they've been late three times, or missed a class three times without a valid excuse, they're on the verge of being let go.

Taylor said they not only teach the technical parts of the job, they also convey the responsibility and reliability expected of certified personnel.

"You're giving live altimeters to live aircraft, and they have to depend on the fact you're going to be there when you're supposed to be.

"That's a big part of this course and we'll let people go if they don't meet the attendance criteria."

Taylor spent five years as an aviation programs officer at Nunavut Airports before taking the instructor's role this past March.

During that time, annual turnover for observer communicators could reach 30 per cent. It was common for 10 to 25 people in the 70 positions to move on to other things each year.

"We had a 20 to 30 per cent success rate at Fort Smith, so we'd be putting four or five back into the system each year.

"That always left a big gap to fill."

Taylor said the day may come when the program won't have to be offered three times a year in Rankin.

But, with the constant rotation of people in and out of the job, new people are always going to be needed.

"Nunavut Arctic College has a three-year agreement with Nunavut Airports, which is how long Nunavut Airports' current contract is with NavCanada.

"I can't see us going anywhere as long as Nunavut Airports wants us.

"In fact, our recruiting effort is going to be greatly aided by people hearing about our higher success rates.

"People with no desire to go to Fort Smith for nine weeks may be quite willing to come to Rankin."