On Friday March 9, the BCIT Student Association (BCITSA) welcomed Burnaby North MLA Janet Routledge and BCIT President Kathy Kinloch into the SA’s newly renovated Child Care Centre on the Burnaby Campus (SE41). In 2016, the previous provincial government announced an investment in child care, with a substantial portion going to upgrading BCIT’s current services and facilities. This allowed the BCITSA to add 25 more spaces for children aged 30 months to school-aged, and 12 new spaces for infants and toddlers. It was much-needed upgrade for a valued service at BCIT.

“The BCIT community is part of a larger community, and so we know that young families in our community are struggling to find child care,” said Routledge. “In the process of developing [the NDP’s] child care plan, we’ve talked to young parents who are on four, or five, or six different waiting lists before the child’s even born.”

This year, the new NDP government released their much-anticipated budget and parents in BC were pleased to see even more investment into child care, with $1 billion committed to increasing child care in the province. “Our goal,” Routledge told us, “is that within three years, child care within BC will be affordable, accessible, and high-quality. So we are committing to creating 22,000 new spaces. [Also] as of April, families can expect to se the cost of child care going down by as much as $350 a month.”

This was welcome news for BCIT students like Brittany DeNunzio who currently has a child enrolled in the BCITSA’s Child Care program. “This daycare centre has allowed me to be successful in my program, and alleviates my stress while studying for assignments and doing finals. With my daughter being so close to school, I can attend class without worrying about where she will be and who will take care of her every day.”

“With my daughter being so close to school, I can attend class without worrying about where she will be, and who will take care of her.”

BCITSA Student Council president Sergey Bukharov echoed this sentiment, elaborating on why this service is so important to today’s BCIT students specifically. “I see the BCIT student as separate from the ‘traditional’ student. I see us as the modern student.” He was highlighting the unique demographics of BCIT, and why child care is especially important on our campus. “The modern student isn’t necessarily somebody who takes the traditional pathway of [education]… someone who comes straight out of high school. They might be someone who is attaining new credentials, [or] looking to renew their credentials, expand their horizons, just taking part time courses; somebody looking to grow within their organization. The modern student might not even be someone who is ‘college age.’ These might be spouses, parents, even grandparents in some cases, and it is specifically for these kinds of students that services like childcare are so critical.”

We asked Routledge more about the NDP’s vision for child care and how this new space fits into that vision. “Just being here and seeing it, we know that it fits our model… It’s play-based, [and] we can tell from the outdoor and indoor space that it respects the creativity and curiousness of young children, and that’s what it’s all about. Child care should be about letting children be children, and delighting in that. But also, providing learning opportunities that are age-specific.” To this end, Routledge indicated that her government is putting significant funds into training early childhood educators, allowing for child care workers to upgrade their skills and credentials.

There is still more that can be done to improve access to child care in BC, but this expansion of the BCITSA program, and increased investment from the provincial government, is a welcome sign that more help is on the way. “When children and parents feel supported, the entire community is better for it,” DeNunzio added. “As in Indigenous student, I’ve always heard it takes a village to support your child and help raise them, and that village starts here.”

The BCIT Student Association acknowledges that this project could not have been built without the support of a number of partners, including the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Child Care Major Capital Funding Program, and VanCity, whose support allowed for the financing of BCITSA’s contribution to the cost of this project.