Skills of Distinction

Starting with NorQuest’s deep purpose

NorQuest’s purpose inspires everyone, in all aspects of the college, to transform people’s lives for the better. It challenges us to continually ask, with everything we choose to do: How will this change people’s lives for the better?

Perhaps there is nowhere in the college where this purpose is more compelling than in the programs we provide, the opportunities we open, and the outcomes we strive to achieve for each and every learner who walks through our doors or connects with the college.

Establishing Skills of Distinction: A commitment to each and every learner

In Fall 2018, NorQuest took steps to review and renew our College-wide Learning Outcomes. This led us on a journey to reimagine what they mean, to whom and what impact they make. Since that time, the focus of the work has shifted to what we’re now calling Skills of Distinction. We’ve also shifted the intent of the Skills of Distinction to focus specifically on learners. That’s not to suggest that continuous learning and development aren’t important for people who work at the college or other stakeholders we engage. But the primary focus on learners is critical to ensure we’re fulfilling NorQuest’s purpose of transforming lives for the better.

To achieve that purpose, the college commits to a common set of outcomes we aspire to achieve with each and every learner. We call those Skills of Distinction because they prepare every learner for the challenges of a changing workforce and a changing world. They are the foundation for changing learners’ lives for the better. They shape the learning outcomes expected for all programs offered at the college and also integrate specific skills essential for all learners such as human skills, creative problem solving, adaptability, and digital fluency.

Based on our review and conversations, the following three Skills of Distinction have been established.



Learners are courageous, healthy and able to respond to or overcome challenges. Through their learning experiences at NorQuest, they become more aware and accountable for their actions.



Learners value diversity and individuality and base their actions on the principles of social justice. They strive to create safe environments, a sense of belonging and acceptance for themselves and others.

New ways of thinking

New Ways of Thinking

Learners embrace bold new ways of thinking. They are prepared to take risks, keep learning, be creative and take personal responsibility for adapting to changing situations.

These three Skills of Distinction provide the lens for all programs provided at the college and our commitment to every learner at the college. They reflect so many aspects of the NorQuest Difference, especially our unique commitment that everything we do is about learning. We make inclusion a reality not through words but through actions. We connect to the communities we serve. And we’re boldly focused on preparing people for whatever their futures might hold. Most importantly, by enabling every learner to achieve these three Skills of Distinction, we help fulfill the purpose of transforming people’s lives for the better.

How do we achieve the Skills of Distinction?

NorQuest is committed to developing and achieving these Skills of Distinction for learners through the lens of the Circle of Courage. The Circle of Courage provides a clear connection to Wahkohtowin, NorQuest’s Indigenization Strategy, and reflects NorQuest’s commitment to embrace Indigenous approaches in all the work we do, especially in how we teach and how learners learn. This holistic approach provides learners with teaching, activities and real-world experiences that include four elements: belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

Circle of Courage1

Circle of Courage

Learning through the Circle of Courage

What does this look like in practice? Both the learner and their learning experience are transformed through all four elements of the Circle of Courage.

  • Belonging: The learner creates and experiences opportunities to develop a sense of belonging and self-awareness that instills confidence and supports courageous actions within NorQuest so they can build relationships within the community and the workplace.

  • Mastery: Through real life scenarios and work experiences, the learner grows knowledge, skills and life experiences to prepare them for work and for life. As they transition to workplaces and communities, they contribute to diverse and inclusive cultures, where they lead by example, continue to build competency, and create opportunities for others.

  • Independence: Learners have abundant opportunities to make decisions, be accountable and resourceful in real-world environments alongside industry professionals so that – in the workplace and in communities – they support themselves and others to work independently, safely and to make good decisions.

  • Generosity: Learners experience and create opportunities to share what they have learned with others – with their peers and colleagues, communities and industry partners – to enrich their learning, create positive and meaningful work experiences, and give back to the community.

By approaching every program and learning opportunity at NorQuest through the Circle of Courage, we achieve the three Skills of Distinction. We help create resilient and courageous individuals ready to take on whatever challenges they encounter. We promote acceptance and belonging and create an environment where inclusion isn’t just an aspiration – it is a reality. And we challenge learners to be bold and creative thinkers, especially in the continually changing world they encounter.

1 - Model adapted from Circle of Courage
Brendtro, L., Brokenleg, M., & Van Bockern (1990, 2002, 2020). Reclaiming youth at risk. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree