Opinion » Editorial


As development of the few remaining parcels in the village is about to begin and the end of the construction boom is supposed to be rounding into view; at a time when competition in the mountain resort business is increasing rapidly, a man arrives offering to help build an accredited secondary institution in Whistler. Timing is everything. Education as a second industry in this town has been talked about for years but the Bachelor of Tourism Management degree program which will be offered by Capilano College and the Open University at Whistler Secondary, starting in March, could be the beginning of a true Whistler post-secondary institution. Brian White, the man behind the program, notes that delivery of education is changing very rapidly, with the Internet, the Open University and the general consensus that education is not only a life-long process, but becoming more important to survival in an increasingly competitive world. The idea of a university or college campus set apart from the rest of society has become obsolete; an education centre can be integrated into Whistler’s existing infrastructure. The conference centre has been mentioned as a possible location for classrooms. The appeal of the initial course offering is that it is immediately applicable to Whistler, where front-line staff and middle managers can put this knowledge to use. White feels education could also be developed as a destination product, attracting foreign students who would fill hotel beds while spending a summer studying in Whistler. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly calls the education program "a rocket ship waiting to take off. This is diversification of our economy in a very positive way." But to make the whole concept work White says the community has to take ownership. Financial support will be needed, but more important is the vision to look ahead to what a Whistler education centre could mean for the community, for the resort, for the youth of Whistler and for the changing corridor economy. A few months ago Intrawest’s Ed Pitoniak suggested that to understand how and why Whistler works it might be more beneficial to look at it as a university campus, rather than trying to apply any of the standard urban models. White is approaching the same subject from almost the reverse angle. Both views are intriguing.