Clyde Wells (no, not that Clyde Wells) spent most of his working career as an I.T. guy in Ontario, but these days he’s more likely to be found taking notes than solving computer crises. As one of the first students taking Memorial’s new certificate in Regional Policy and Development, Clyde has been spending time on-campus.
There’s no question he’s got the upper hand on his classmates when it comes to real-world experience in regional development: for over ten years he’s been a dedicated volunteer, first with the Cupids Historical Society, then the Regional Economic Development Board. Today, he’s the chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Regional Economic Development Association.
For Clyde, community engagement has always been a way of life: “I grew up in a family where my parents were always involved in the community. It was big part of their lives, and my life as a young person growing up in rural Newfoundland. Like my parents, I always felt like I could contribute to the well-being of the community by being involved. And I became hooked on it. You see so much opportunity, and some days, so much frustration, it keeps driving you,” he says.
So why did Clyde decide to register for the course?
Although he had plenty of on-the-ground experience, he liked the idea of learning the theory behind the practice of regional policy and development. “As a volunteer, there’s always that challenge: “are you doing the right thing?” he explains. “You look in the field and wonder if you’re qualified to do the job. It does require a set of specific qualifications, and as we know, there are some complex issues currently going in with the process of trying to re-energize the province’s regions
The certificate fills a provincial gap when it comes to formal education for regional policy and development. With a clear focus on the issues that are relevant here in the province, it’s made up of ten course, including three core offerings, 4 electives from a range of disciplines including geography, political science, economics, and more, and three special courses created in partnership with the Harris Centre and NLREDA
The fact that the certificate has a distinctly local flavor was also a factor in Clyde’s decision to enroll. “You always hear complaints about a lack of formal training for regional policy and development in Newfoundland. A lot of people would go away to do the program at the University of Waterloo, which is an Ontario-based program, focused on a larger demographic, and different issues than we face in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.”
While Clyde is only one course into the certificate, he’s already seeing how it will benefit him in the future. “It gives you tremendous confidence,” he says. “The certificate program confirms what you’ve already been doing. It lets you put your practical experience to theory. Now, when I sit down to discuss an important issue with our partners and funders, I be able to speak up in the technical conversations.”
According to Clyde, the biggest challenge facing Newfoundland and Labrador is making sure that the influx of wealth we’ve seen in recent years has positive effects all over the province: “we need to harness the financial well-being coming from some of the large projects we’re seeing, and transfer some of that wealth back into rural communities. How? “It’s all about strategic planning,” says Clyde. It’s in that respects that he believes the certificate will have a positive effect on this province’s capacity to deal with emerging issues in regional policy and development. “It’s going to give community development a group of trained professionals who can come out in the field and do the work. It’ll give organizations and communities a different set of tools.”
“It took a little courage to go back to school, but I’m glad I did, and I think everybody involved in regional policy and development should look at it,” Clyde concludes. “It’s really quite exciting.”
Interested in learning more about the new Certificate in Regional Policy and Development? Click here for all the details.