GRANDE PRAIRE, ALTA – The Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC) will now be known as Northwestern Polytechnic as the former college gains its polytechnic designation.

“We officially have our new name and our legal designation as a polytechnic institution,” Justin Kohlman, GPRC president, told Town & Country News.

“Now the real work begins as a polytechnic.

“It’s our responsibility to ensure we are aligned with the needs of the communities.”

The polytechnic status will allow the institution degree-granting, expanded apprenticeship and skilled trades, along with more programming aligned with outstanding careers, says GPRC.

The post-secondary institution will continue offering and expanding programs in the School of Skilled Trades, School of Business, Health and Education, and Applied Science and Technology.

Kohlman said that in the next few months, the college will be working on the development of new programs and exploring what is needed in the community; still, he adds, changes should be seen quickly.

“The next intake of students in September, will certainly have different courses to select from than we currently have,” said Kohlman.

He said that courses would be added that align with the area’s workforce needs.

“One of the big advantages of being a polytechnic is that we can do things like offer degrees,” says Kohlman.

Another advantage of the new status will be the appeal to international students.

“I have no doubt we will attract more international students,” he said. “That will enable us to better meet the workforce needs here, but also it’ll enable us to offer more programming because we’ll have guaranteed student numbers so that domestic students can then take those courses as well.”

Kohlman said that programs partnered with other schools would continue, such as the recently announced partnership with the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and the Teacher Education North (TEN) program.

He noted that the status change will also create the opportunity for more partnerships with other post-secondaries in the future.

The new name was chosen to reflect the history and potential of the institution’s two campuses in Grande Prairie and Fairview.

“This change reflects the work the institution has been doing to help Albertans across the northwest get skills and training closer to home and put that knowledge to use locally in their own communities,” says Demetrios Nicolaides, minister of advanced education.

“We have been given an incredible opportunity to build on our deep local roots and to expand programming in a way that benefits our communities,” says chair of GPRC’s Board of Governors, Bridget Hennigar.

“As a polytechnic, we are looking forward to further empowering students with the skills and knowledge necessary for a productive future.”

The formalization of the name and designation came from the province with an order-in-council on Dec. 8.

The institution plans to continue to use the GPRC name until March 2022.

In March, there is a plan to have an event to show the new look of the institution and celebrate officially.

“Hopefully, by the time we launch our name officially and invite everybody to that official launch, we can make a lot of really exciting announcements that make people stand up and take notice and really think, wow, this is our polytechnic, and it’s going to make a real difference in our area in helping us grow as a region,” said Kohlman.