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Loyalist College mustered a comprehensive response to the coronavirus pandemic. For example, Loyalist Health, Human & Justice Studies students volunteered at COVID-19 assessment centres across Ontario throughout the pandemic .supplied

Loyalist College may be among the smallest of Ontario’s 24 publicly assisted colleges, but that hasn’t stopped it from having a big impact on the Bay of Quinte region’s pandemic response and recovery. In fact, its small size is a defining reason for Loyalist’s success.

In March 2021, as part of regional mass vaccination efforts, Loyalist College and Hastings Prince Edward Public Health worked together to establish a Regional Immunization Centre at the college. In less than six months, the centre had administered 50,000 vaccines to community members – with the college’s staff and students playing a central role.

“When you call a partner because you really need help, it’s music to your ears to hear them say, ‘Anything you need – we’ll be there.’ Loyalist did that every time,” says Stacey Daub, president and CEO of Quinte Health Care. “They have reimagined themselves as more than an academic institution of excellence; they have become an essential community partner on which partners and residents can rely.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, the college has applied a whirlwind combination of time, care, expertise and resources in collaboration with community partners and local public health units to address everything from equipment scarcity and mass immunization efforts to food insecurity and local labour shortages.

For Valentine’s Day, students and faculty in Culinary Skills and Management programs made 500 cupcakes for Canadians under observation at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.supplied

“As a nationally recognized post-secondary institution, we have the skills, facilities and instructors to act as a force for good during challenges times – it’s part of our core values,” says Loyalist College president and CEO Dr. Ann Marie Vaughan. “We are proud of our deep connection with the local community and the way it ensures our students graduate with highly marketable skills and impactful learning experiences.”

For Loyalist, being small means being nimble and highly connected. Forming close relationships with local hospitals, services and public health authorities has allowed the college to create better opportunities for students to engage with their community and learn in the field.

“From technology services to campus life, employment opportunities, student mentoring, counselling – we get to know our students by name and circumstance and can really provide the wraparound supports that they need,” says Dr. Vaughan. “We can move mountains to help every student succeed.”

Campus-wide response

The college’s community support also involved programs outside of nursing and paramedicine. Students from Loyalist’s Carpentry and Renovation Techniques and Technician programs constructed an insulated shelter at the Belleville COVID-19 assessment centre to give frontline workers doing drive-through testing a place to get out of the cold. In addition, students and faculty from Culinary Skills and Management prepared and helped distribute healthy meals to local food banks and families in need. They even baked more than 500 cupcakes for Canadians in quarantine at CFB Trenton.

Getting outside the classroom

At the on-site Immunization Centre, students in the college’s Nursing programs had a unique chance to apply classroom techniques to real-world challenges, practising the college’s values of care and community engagement alongside their learning.

“Along with applying skills like giving an injection, administering vaccines to the public gave me the opportunity to apply the emotional and communicative skills we’re being taught in class,” said Lauren Stitt, a second-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing student. “Those skills can make a real difference in patient experience.”

Carpentry and Renovation Techniques and Technician students built a small, insulated shelter at the Belleville COVID-19 assessment centre to offer Quinte Health Care attendants and Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services a place to get out of the cold.supplied

Close ties to community also mean that the college is acutely aware of changing industry demands and local labour shortages – including the pandemic-related demands on the health-care workforce.

When the Government of Ontario announced that publicly assisted colleges could offer standalone university-level degrees in Nursing, Loyalist mobilized its expertise in nursing education to launch the region’s first standalone Nursing degree program.

The new degree gives local students a unique opportunity to achieve a university-level credential without leaving the Bay of Quinte region.

“I really wanted to get a four-year degree because it gives you more flexibility and possibility to grow your career in the future,” says Ms. Stitt. “I’m really happy I’ll be able to pursue that future while staying in the area.”

With numerous hospital expansions currently underway in the region, there is significant demand for experienced medical staff. This growth has led to an abundance of work placement opportunities, as well as strong pathways to employment after graduation.

“This is an important step forward in recognizing Loyalist’s excellent nursing education and allowing people to live and learn in their community and then stay to strengthen local health care,” says Suzanne Braithwaite, Loyalist College professor and co-ordinator of the Honours Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. “As part of your studies, you do clinical placements with local hospitals and clinics, and you build relationships that often lead to jobs upon graduation.”

Creating new educational opportunities

While proud of its smaller size, Loyalist College also values strategic growth. Staying small means growing smart. And lately, Loyalist has been adding educational programming to match emergent industry sectors and aligning to the “jobs of the future.

“During this time, we developed 25 new programs to respond to current community needs and to anticipate future requirements – preparing people for occupations that will be in demand coming out of the pandemic,” says Dr. Vaughan.

New programs have been created in such high-growth areas as financial technology, AI and data science, and mechatronics.

During the post-COVID recovery, high labour demand in these high-growth sectors is a particular opportunity – both in the region and across the country – as Loyalist College students leverage skills developed as part of this community response graduate as career-ready professionals, ready to make an immediate impact in the workforce.

It starts with a spark: Downtown Belleville Business Accelerator stokes local entrepreneurship

Loyalist College is a small school that helps its students and community do big things. Loyalist’s latest initiative in the heart of downtown aims to amplify big ideas around Belleville.

With the soon-to-launch Downtown Belleville Business Accelerator, the college has begun to weave itself into the growth and development of the city’s economic life. A new cyclist and pedestrian path will link the Loyalist campus directly to the City of Belleville.

“It doesn’t take many entrepreneurs to change a town or city. Imagine the synergies from bringing together people of all ages to network and learn from each other, while receiving mentorship and advisory services to bring their plans to life,” says developer, business coach and project partner Bruce Firestone.

For Mr. Firestone, who owns the 2,800-square-foot space on Front Street where the accelerator is housed, renovations must match the vision for entrepreneurial offices to sit alongside artisans, businesses and apartments in a hub of activity and innovation.

As a small school, Loyalist College is committed to smart growth. Since the pandemic began, the college launched 25 new programs, each with an eye to changing demographics and workforce demands, and catering to emerging technologies from artificial intelligence to FinTech.

As Loyalist College continues to engage in the local business ecosystem to foster growth and change, it must also be there to train the dynamic, resilient workforce that will power these innovative new ideas in the Bay of Quinte.

“The accelerator is a wonderful opportunity to use the talents and expertise of Loyalist to nurture innovation and provide robust supports to students, graduates and community members who want to launch their own businesses,” says Dr. Ann Marie Vaughan, president and CEO of the college. “It has the power to enhance this region’s prospects for economic growth and give graduates more reason to remain in the area and contribute to the big changes that are happening all around us.”


Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Colleges and Institutes Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.