Keyin College president studying opportunities in Education

Posted on April 15, 2021 | Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments

Since taking over Newfoundland and Labrador-based Keyin College, president Craig Tucker has been investing in a new future for the multi-campus institution. He’s been building digital services while investigating the potential in the broader reach online.

Tucker took the reins of one of the largest private colleges in Atlantic Canada three years ago with business partner Steven Taylor (Keyin’s executive vice-president), as he recently recalled for the Gale Force Wins podcast. Early on, Tucker said, they identified needs for some specific capital spending and program development. In speaking directly to students, they also took note of common personal stressors and how they can affect education and career development.

A Conference Board of Canada report in 2016 on Canada’s private career colleges (PCCs) noted there were over 1,300 registered private career colleges in the country enrolling more than 170,000 students annually, including 140 in Atlantic Canada. It noted, as a whole, students in PCCs tended be more financially vulnerable than students at other post-secondary institutions, did not benefit from some publicly funded student supports (for example for student mobility) and students were disadvantaged from “limited employer awareness” of programs in some cases.

In the case of Keyin, some of the earliest re-investments Tucker wanted involved new, personal supports for students. The college worked with Morneau Shepell and established a program offering easier access to personal counselling. Tucker said a next step was signing British Columbia-based Enriched Academy to provide student-specific financial literacy programs and tools, with options for students to better evaluate household finances, options for investing, local mortgages and first-time home purchases.

Craig Tucker

Part of the executive team’s work and budget has gone toward building what Tucker is referring to as an all-in-one digital “ecosystem” for students, to meet educational needs but also connect them through a single online platform with personal supports. Work there is ongoing, he said, using a base of Microsoft Teams, with high hopes.

Since Tucker took over, the college has also invested in – among other things – renovations at the main campus and digital equipment upgrades, including radiography equipment for the dental assistant programs. Keyin hired a director of industry engagement to improve ties to the local labour market, including seeking feedback on curricula and arranging guest lectures.

Given local demographic realities, some acute labour demands and the new potential in remote, online learning, Tucker said it’s important for any college not to get stuck in “maintenance mode” and keep pushing for an overall environment that will serve the needs of students and employers.

COVID-19 has pushed students online around the world and expanded the potential in distance education.

“Our leadership team, executive team, we’re constantly battling that notion of: we’ve got work to do inside our campuses and continue to evolve, but there is a definitive carve off of time where we want our team focusing on what we can do outside of Newfoundland,” Tucker told Atlantic Business Magazine.

He estimated the split right now is about 70 per cent of time spent on building current operations and 30 per cent working on new platforms, programs and approaches that could serve the future of the college – one with high standards but a broader reach than ever before.

Tucker started as president of the college after 20 years in “the agency game,” as he calls it, leaving his position as managing partner of St. John’s-based marketing and communications firm m5. He notes with pride Keyin was established in 1980 by his mother, Gwen.

He plans to build on his mother’s legacy over time through the investments in existing programs, but also the digital tools and remote learning platforms.

“I think our base is Newfoundland and Labrador and it’s always going to be that. We’re a proud Newfoundland company and we want to continue to educate and build,” Tucker said, “but at the same time, we have the ability to take our product worldwide.”

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