Yukon College celebrated 50 years as a post-secondary education institution in 2013. Since its early days in the ‘60s, the institution has been evolving. It started out as a vocational and technical training centre, opened campuses throughout the communities and became a college in the 80s, began delivering partner degrees in 1989, and saw its legislation change in 2009 to allow the conferring of Yukon College degrees. Now YC is preparing for the delivery of its first made-in-Yukon degree to commence in 2017, and the transition to university status.
Founding post secondary education in the Yukon
Fifty years ago, in June of 1963, the Whitehorse Vocational Training School opened its doors. Courses were offered in office admin, building trades, automotive mechanics, heavy equipment operation, drafting, food services, practical nursing and hairdressing. It was an exciting time for Yukon, and the start of what is today - Yukon College.
First graduates of Whitehorse Vocational Training School
In 1964 the Whitehorse Vocational Training School graduated its first students into a red hot job market. Students quickly found employment in the new mines, housing construction, highways or community services - all rapidly expanding industries. Private sector employers and government agencies clamored for these Northern grads too. They knew the North, understood Yukon issues, and had current employment skills.
Changing names for changing times
The Whitehorse Vocational Training School founded in 1963 was renamed the Yukon Vocational and Technical Training Centre in 1965 to reflect the growing number of students from across the Yukon, as well as the expanded program offerings. In 1983 the institution changed names again, this time to Yukon College. Academic courses joined vocational trades training to offer a broad range of post secondary education to Yukon students close to home.
Training for future goals
Harry Allen, Gerald Isaac, Frances Woolsey and many other prominent First Nations citizens attended Yukon Vocational and Technical Training Centre to acquire skills and certification in the 1960s. After graduation they worked and also contributed to organizations such as Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, Yukon Native Brotherhood, and Yukon Association of Non Status Indians, building the land claims movement in the territory.
Training Yukon caregivers
Training for Yukon health workers was first established at Whitehorse Vocational Training School and continues today at Yukon College. Since the mid 1960s hundreds of graduates from the Certified Nursing Assistant, Practical Nurse, Home Support Worker, and Home and Community Care programs have cared for Yukon people in our hospitals, seniors’ and continuing care facilities.
Building homes for northerners
Hundreds of students at Yukon Vocational and Technical Training Centre gained experience in the 1970s building homes in Riverdale. Drafting students drew plans; others in surveying, pipe trades, electrical, and carpentry programs worked with instructors to finish the homes, which were then sold at market price. Today students work with Habitat for Humanity building homes for northerners.
YVTTC—Road building crews
During the 1970s students in the heavy equipment operators program at the Yukon Vocational and Technical Training Centre assisted government crews in upgrading roads around Whitehorse. They had real life expertise to offer employers after graduating, a practice continued today at Yukon College where students use a simulator and other equipment to prepare for work in mining and road construction.
The Yukon Vocational and Technical Training Centre was home to a fine arts program in the 1960s and 70s, taught by renowned artist Ted Harrison. Among the students who passed through his classes were Jim Robb and Jean Taylor on their way to establishing their own place as distinguished Yukon artists.
Since 1989 Yukon College has been delivering the Bachelor of Education degree taught by YC faculty - the Yukon Native Teacher Education - in partnership with the University of Regina. In 1995, partnering with the same university, the Bachelor of Social Work program was launched at the Ayamdigut campus. In 2009 Yukon College introduced its third partnership degree to be delivered at Yukon College – the Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Conservation Sciences with the University of Alberta. This degree is taught by both UofA and YC faculty.
Building the dream—Ayamdigut Campus
Angela Sidney bestowed the name Ayamdigut on the new 50 million dollar Yukon campus when it opened in 1988 on the bluffs above Whitehorse. The Tlingit phrase meant “she got up and went”, referencing the Whitehorse Campus move from downtown. At the official opening Mrs. Sidney expressed her thanks for the new campus where Yukon students could study close to home.
New beginnings—a Yukon Board of Governors
In 1989 the College Act was amended to establish an independent Board of Governors for Yukon College. Yukoners from all walks of life have served on the boards, establishing visionary goals for programs and services. Dedicated members bring diverse perspectives and expertise to guide the administration, faculty and staff in meeting the post secondary needs of all residents.
Plans for Whitehorse Vocational Training School included an attached residence—as essential service for rural northern students. The move to Ayamdigut in 1988 expanded on campus housing to provide family units. In the 1990s the Carpenters’ Union contributed to an additional singles residence. The Canada Winter Games legacy included a larger family residence converted from the 2007 Athletes Village facility.
Supporting students for excellence
Students have many needs in addition to pursuing their academic studies. When the Whitehorse campus moved to Yukon Place in 1988, these supports expanded to include enhanced career planning, employment search coaching, personal counselling and referrals to various health agencies. Student Services continues to provide a broad range of assistance to assist students in reaching their goals.
Library on the move
College library services have literally launched into space in recent decades, building from the first small collections at Whitehorse Vocational Training School. In 1990 Library staff said good-bye to the old card catalogue when automated cataloguing and circulation arrived. Today on-line reference services and databases offer access to worldwide information resources—in the library and anywhere that students, faculty and the public connect to the digital universe.
Warm welcome to students from around the world
In 1963, students of Asian ancestry were among the first to attend Whitehorse Vocational Training School. That tradition has continued through the years with Yukon College giving a warm welcome to students from around the world, offering English language training, northern outdoor experiential programs and a full range of academic courses to new Canadians and visiting international students. Today YC hosts nearly 100 international students each year from over 15 countries.
Student Union in action
Student Council members at the Whitehorse Vocational Training School organized dances, hockey, basketball, sewing classes, and a year book in the 1960s. Through the years, students continued to build school spirit with pub nights, sports, First Nations cultural programs, social and environmental awareness events. Today’s Student Union is an active participant in enhancing student life at Yukon College.
Research for a new north
The Northern Research Institute (NRI) was established at the new Yukon College Ayamdigut Campus in the 1990s to support research “By the North—For the North—In the North”. Renamed the Yukon Research Centre, programs today include cutting edge investigations into issues of critical concern to northerners—mine reclamation, cold climate construction, climate change impacts, community health and economic diversification. YC was awarded Tri-Council eligibility in 2006.