The Industrial Vocational Education Centre, the forerunner of Red River College, was established in the mid-1930s at 331 Henry Avenue in Winnipeg. Three Winnipeggers - R.J. Jones, T.O. Durin and Otto Peters - started evening programs to train unskilled and unemployed youth in various trades.
At first the centre was without even the most basic amenities such as desks, blackboards or classrooms. Enterprising students salvaged planks and trestles to sit on. Note-taking was done on their laps.
Even those who could not afford the modest tuition fees were welcomed into the centres. These early programs are now considered the first Continuing Education programs of the College.
The success of the centres prompted the federal government to support the programs through the Department of Labour in 1938, marking the official beginning of today’s Red River College. Some of the first courses included carpentry, sheet metal, machine shop, needle trades, welding and forging, power engineering and radio.
In 1939 the centre support the Dominion Provincial War Emergency Training Program by providing training to servicemen going overseas, in addition to offering programs for civilians.
Training moved to the Mid-West Aircraft Building on Ellice Avenue and other smaller locations around the city in 1942. With overcrowding quickly becoming a problem, the centre expanded to the top three floors of the Ford Motor Company plant at 1181 Portage Avenue. By 1944 the remaining floors of the five-story Ford building were being used as well. The centre continued to train servicemen as well as veterans returning from the Second World War.
By the mid-1940s the decreasing number of skilled workers emigrating from Europe prompted the demand for vocationally oriented training in Canada. To meet the growing demand for skilled workers, technical, vocational and trades training become important in their own right.
By 1948 the majority of veterans had been retrained for peacetime occupations and the centre was then opened to the community under the name Manitoba Technical Institute (MTI). It was the first permanent, public, post-secondary, vocational school in Manitoba.
Training was geared to providing marketable skills and technical knowledge in the trades, industrial and business fields. Even at this early date programs were flexible enough to meet the differences in past education and work experience.
The Manitoba Technical Institute’s philosophy during the late 1940s and well into the next decade could be summed up in the school’s slogan, "Learn to Earn."
Students had a choice of 34 courses within the metal, building, electrical and automotive trades as well as commercial education and some miscellaneous services industries. Trades training soon proved the most popular. Registration fees for each six-month training period were $25 for Manitoba residents and $50 for non-residents. Those who could not attend day classes could choose from the 14 courses offered in the evening program.
The 1940s closed with an enrolment of more than 1,000 full- and part-time students.
The 1950s ushered in a society growing in complexity and industrialization. This led to a greater demand for vocational and technical training as well as preparation for business careers. The Manitoba Technical Institute’s mandate was reflected in its new slogan, "Get the Skill You Need for the Job You Want."
The Institute was also evolving in its own right. It was not a junior college nor a preparatory school for university. It developed and conferred its own diplomas and certificates. Its business was to produce well-trained graduates.
The first students’ association was formed in 1950 and welcomed new members for an annual fee of 50 cents. The group was mainly concerned with organizing social functions, many being held in the students’ lounge on the fifth floor of the Ford Building.
This same year the Central School of Practical Nurses transferred from St. Joseph’s Hospital in north Winnipeg to MTI. Students spent three months in the classroom and nine months of supervised training in local or rural hospitals. Even in these early years practical experience was a major component of the College’s training programs.
Advisory Committees soon become an important part of the planning in all programs. Top executives from local business and industry served to influence the Institute and keep its programs relevant to changing industrial and business practices.
It was also around this time that substantial financial assistance become available to students enrolled in full-time programs through Dominion-Provincial Student Aid Bursaries. These funds were awarded to students for academic excellence as well as to those who had trouble meeting the modest tuition fees.
The 1960s proved to be a decade of unrivalled growth in post-secondary education across North America. To meet the increasing demand for vocational and technological training, a new centre was constructed at the corner of King Edward Street and Notre Dame Avenue in 1963.
Named Manitoba Institute of Technology, the centre opened its doors to approximately 2000 students.
For the first time in the province’s history two-year post-secondary diploma programs were available in Manitoba.
The first programs reflected the needs of the day with over 40 courses available. The Technology division offered business administration, engineering technologies, and medical radiological technology.
The Industrial Division offered programs such as radio and television servicing, meat-cutting and plumbing. Thirteen apprenticeships training programs were provided in construction, electrical, automotive and machining trades.
By 1965 the growing enrolment necessitated the new facilities be expanded. A fourth story was added to Building "A" and an annex was added to Building "B" to provide additional training space for carpentry and masonry students.
The Institute also began offering Adult Basic Education at a variety of extension centres around Winnipeg in early 1960s. The main goal of the centre was to help students raise their academic skills so they could enter into the Institution’s training programs.
International Education took root at the Institute during this period. Instructors traveled to destination as far as Russia, Brunei and China as part of international development projects. Soon after, students from outside of Canada began attending classes. Over the years International Education would grow to include global participation through student recruitment, academic exchanges, development partnerships, institutional partnerships, and joint education ventures.
The Institute opened a new arts and science complex call the Manitoba Institute of Applied Arts in 1968 and an administration tower. Building "D", "E" and "F" not only provided the space for growing enrolment, but its "Schools" of Business, Commercial Studies and Teacher Education offered programs never before available in Manitoba.
The emergence of Advertising Art, Computer Analyst/Programmer, Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Management, Creative Communications, Preschool Education, and Social Welfare Services marked a transition for the institution. It was no longer simply a technical learning centre but a comprehensive college meeting the needs of the community.
At this time individual aspirations as well as industrial needs began to shape post-secondary education. The Institute responded with a number of programs to support students in their studies. Guidance counseling, career planning, academic upgrading and a host of student services and activities become a vital part of the College experience.
The federal government also began sponsoring ESL (English as a Second Language) students at the College. Through this College program new Canadian immigrants and foreign students could improve their language skills enough to settle, work or study in Canada.
In December 1969 Manitoba joined the North American movement in post-secondary education toward the creation of "community colleges".
The concept of fully integrating vocational and technical training centres into the community they served led to the renaming of the complex to Red River Community College.
By 1970 the College was serving almost 10,000 full-time and part-time students annually.
Red River Community College (RRCC) continued to expand under its new name into the 70s and 80s.
The RRCC Students’ Association was incorporated as an independent business entity in 1974. As part of its new mandate, the Association opened "The Crazy Ox" store in the mall level of the College’s administration tower, which provided a convenient stop for students and staff to purchase snacks and supplies. The Association was also instrumental in establishing an on-campus day care centre in 1975.
Teacher Education become RRCC’s first college-university joint program in 1975. The program provided students with the necessary training to teach business, industrial and vocational arts in Manitoba high schools.
A new industrial training building ("J") was opened in 1974 to meet the dramatically growing need for technology and trades-based training. The opening of an auto/diesel facility (Building "M") followed in 1985.
By this time the College’s enrolment had skyrocketed to over 25,000 full- and part-time students, up from less than 4,000 just 20 years before.
The College extended its reach to students throughout the province in 1979. Demand for programs by students unable to attend classes on the College campus prompted the first Distance Education programs. By the late 1990s Distance Education was taking advantage of teleconferencing, videotaped lessons and the internet as well as the mail system to deliver quality programming to learners throughout Manitoba. In the fall of 1985 the College opened the Portage la Prairie Regional Centre, the first of five "storefront" centres to extend the College’s services to rural communities in Manitoba. Other regional centres followed in Selkirk (1986), Winkler (1986), Gimli (1992) and Steinbach (1992).
Market Driven Training (MDT) was launched in 1986 as an entrepreneurial arm of Red River Community College. The division’s aim was to provide industry and business with quality training initiatives that meet the requirements of the labour force.
MDT moved to Union Station in Winnipeg in 1995. It followed with the opening of a second location, the Industrial Technology Centre on King Edward Street, as a training facility for aerospace and other technology programs in 1997.
Red River Community College began a new and exciting chapter with the appointment of its first Board of Governors in 1993. This gave the College the autonomy to set its own course and the ability to be more flexible and responsive to community needs when designing and delivering programs.
The current and future involvement of Aboriginal students at Red River Community College was strengthened through the creation of the Aboriginal Education and Institutional Diversity Division in 1993. The Division encompassed programs and services aimed at meeting the unique needs of Aboriginal and other students on campus and in the community.
The same year the Province commissioned the Honourable Duff Roblin and his commission to study higher education in Manitoba. Their report identified the Province’s community colleges as a number one educational priority. RRCC was given top marks as being relevant and affordable to the students of today and our leaders of tomorrow.
The College continued to expand its programs and facilities to serve its students. More than ever, the College embraced technology as the key to a brighter future.
College facilities continued to be updated to integrate the use of technology within the curriculum. Not only did this help prepare students for careers in the competitive workplace, but allowed the College to introduce learners to a world of information.
The College focused on building relationships with a number of partners, including individuals, community groups, businesses, government and other educational institutions. Students in virtually every program benefit from these relationships.
As we entered the new millennium, the College once again took on a new name. In October 1998 RRCC became Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology. The College remained committed to the community it has always served and worked to expand its reach to more students, employers and training partners around the world.
Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology expansion:
In January 2002, Stevenson Aviation expanded its operations by opening a new Winnipeg campus at 2280 Saskatchewan Avenue. Stevenson Aviation & Aerospace Training Centre was established to respond to the continuing demand for skilled workers in Manitoba’s aviation and aerospace sector.
A blend of old and new, the RRC Princess Street Campus is a state of the art facility that compliments the historic facades of the Exchange District.
Located on the west side of Princess Street between Elgin Ave. and William Ave., the new campus is home to approximately 200 staff and 2000 students studying modern media, information technology, and business.
Today, Red River College serves almost 40,000 learners each year and employs more than 900 full-and part-time employees throughout the province. It has gained a reputation for graduating skilled, knowledgeable and motivated individuals able to immediately become contributing members of the workforce. The College has earned this reputation through its ability to change and adapt quickly as dictated by the developments and demands of students, business and the community.
Together, the people of RRC ensure Manitobans have access to quality education and career-oriented training.