Bursary draws students home

Richard Froese
South Peace News

A bursary to attract local students to return home to work has been initiated by Big Lakes County.

At its regular meeting Sept. 12, council approved a recommendation to establish a Return of Service Bursary, to be solely administered by the county.

During its Aug 8 meeting, council expressed an interest to develop a bursary program to attract post-secondary graduates from Big Lakes to return to work in the county.

An option to partner with the Northern Alberta Development Council was turned down by council.

“It has to be a student from the county,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.

Post-secondary students would be eligible for a bursary of $3,000.

Under the plan, the program states the bursary would be eligible for students in medicine and dentistry, nursing, pharmacy and veterinary medicine.

However, Matthews suggests the fields be expanded.

“I don’t think it should specify any field,” Matthews says.

“Administration is another field we should consider.”

The bursary would help local businesses recruit new employees.

“Skilled labour shortage is the biggest concern for local businesses in a recent survey conducted by the county,” deputy CAO Jordan Panasiuk says.

Businesses in the county, High Prairie and Swan Hills were consulted in a retention and expansion survey from June 11 to July 6 with consulting firm MDB.

The program proposes that the county would review applications, track students’ progress in their programs, and ensure they comply with the agreement after graduation.

Each student approved for a bursary must sign a contract to commit to live and work within Big Lakes County within a six-month period after graduation.

The return of service required is three months of residency for each $500 in total bursary support.

Recipients who do not graduate within six years of applying for the program or do not meet the return-of-service commitment must repay Big Lakes County’s portion of the bursary in full.


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