A partnership between two P.E.I. colleges is taking shape in Charlottetown, with some massive renovations happening on the Holland College campus.

It's to make room for faculty, staff and students from Collège Acadie, now able to offer French courses in the fall, thanks to the new partnership.

"It will be a difference maker, students will be able to take programs in French, in English, or in both," said Michael O'Grady, vice-president of strategic planning for Holland College. "In that sense it will be a unique educational opportunity in the country."

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Michael O'Grady, vice-president of strategic planning for Holland College, calls the new partnership a unique arrangement in education in the country. (CBC)

The new space for Collège Acadie is an old home on Kent St. that Holland College bought several years ago.

Last fall, the province committed $400,000 to renovate the building to accommodate the partnership.

Once it is complete, Collège Acadie will rent the space. 

"For both institutions, it's an opportunity to raise our profiles and extend our reach beyond the current markets, student markets," said O'Grady. "That's from an institutional perspective, but from a student perspective, I think we're going to have an exciting partnership here that will benefit our students, faculty and I think the entire city."

The main floor will be mostly office space for Collège Acadie staff and faculty.

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The new campus is actually an old house on Kent St. in Charlottetown that Holland College purchased several years ago. (CBC)

On the second floor, there's space for an artist in residence and a lounge. 

Video conferencing with instructors in the West Prince campus will happen on the third floor.

Classes in English and French

Students will be able to take classes in either English or French, in six to eight programs such as practical nursing and child and youth worker, that are offered by both schools.

"For us, it gives students access to gym facilities, library, the cafeteria, etcetera," said Donald DesRoches, president of Collège Acadie. "But also to have the social exchange that happens between students at post-secondary institutions."

The goal is to offer skilled training in French, not only for Francophone students, but for English speakers who took French immersion. 

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Donald DesRoches, president of Collège Acadie, says the new partnership benefits both French and English students. (CBC)

"What happens sometimes is there isn't a skill shortage in some areas, for English speaking graduates, but there may be a shortage for bilingual," said DesRoches. "So the opportunity here is to fill more of those bilingual positions and thereby provide more services in French."

Benefits for all students

Holland College is counting the benefits for its students as well.

"What this provides is an enhanced student experience for our students, many of whom have gone through French immersion," said O'Grady. "It gives them the opportunity to cross the street as it were and take part of their programs in French and likewise for Collège Acadie students to take some of their coursework in English, so the idea being that we could produce bilingual graduates in key program areas in support of the employment needs of the province."

The schools also hope this unique learning experience will attract students from across the country, and make P.E.I. more of a post-secondary destination.

There is still a lot of renovation work to be done, but the hope is to have the building open and functional by September.

If the faculty and administration building isn't ready, the Collège Acadie students will still be able to start their fall term in classrooms around Holland College.