Alberta’s colleges are uniquely positioned to be leaders in the province’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing relevant, high-quality training for the careers that serve the province, Alberta’s 11 publicly-funded Comprehensive Community Colleges (CCCs) work closely with industry to ensure highly-skilled graduates are prepared for the jobs needed to drive Alberta forward.
To support this goal, Alberta’s colleges have launched an economic recovery task force to assist the work of local, provincial and federal governments, and industry, as they tackle the economic challenges faced as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Chaired by Grande Prairie Regional College President and CEO Dr. Robert Murray, the task force also includes the presidents of four other colleges and a variety of industry and government representatives.
“This task force will align its work with business as well as municipal, provincial and federal government priorities to connect the community-based knowledge and expertise that exists within Alberta’s colleges to have a direct positive impact on the economy,” says Dr. Murray.
Alberta’s colleges are well-positioned to provide the type of education that puts workers back into the workforce. Colleges are creating new programs that meet the economic needs of the province, such as Olds College’s two new Agriculture Technology programs, including an Agriculture Technology Integration post-diploma certificate and Precision Agriculture – Techgronomy diploma. Others are meeting the most pressing needs of the province, such as Medicine Hat College, which is capitalizing on a $1.7 billion federal grant-based program to aid in the cleanup of orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells. Medicine Hat’s Environmental Reclamation Technician graduates are ready to enter the workforce in this field and be part of the solution that will stimulate the provincial economy.
Strategically located across the province, Alberta’s 11 CCCs service all regions of Alberta, both in-person and through established alternate delivery models. Lakeland College has long provided many courses that are fully or partially online, allowing students to learn while they earn in programs like 2nd Class Power Engineer and Firefighter Training. Northern Lakes College serves over 50 communities, including 15 First Nations and four Métis settlements, with its innovative Supported Distance Learning model, which ensures access to education for all, including learners in rural locations.
“Northern Lakes College is well-poised and ready to do its part to support our region to relaunch the Alberta economy,” says Ann Everatt, Northern Lakes College President and CEO. “Our unique Supported Distance Learning model ensures our programs and student support services are accessible to students at home and work. We will reach out to communities and economic development agencies within the region to determine how we can support their efforts in the recovery of the economy.”
Alberta’s colleges recognize there is a need for the upskilling and reskilling of workers affected by the challenges and changes facing the province’s economy. Lethbridge College is building its Collaborative Centre of Excellence in People Development, which will focus on competency-based upskilling, reskilling and micro-credentialing that provides immediate and long-term value to employers, employees and industry.
Many institutions have adapted their continuing education programming to ensure quick and easy access to relevant skill development. Grande Prairie Regional College launched a variety of free programs, including a COVID-19 program that provided important information for business owners affected by the on-going pandemic.
Alberta’s colleges have continually shown they are adaptable, flexible and responsive intuitions that put students first and meet the needs of the province’s economy – traits that will continue as a new generation of students prepares to lead Alberta forward. A Portage College survey found 92 per cent of students would recommend the college to others – a sign that Alberta’s colleges are meeting the needs of students.
“We really appreciate our students’ understanding and remarkable resilience during this challenging time,” said Nancy Broadbent, Portage College President and CEO. “We will take their feedback and learn where we can improve, while also noting what we did well. We congratulate all of our faculty, staff and students on a remarkable year.”
Meeting the needs of learners and industries across the province, Alberta’s colleges are ready to be a part of the solution for the province’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
Alberta’s 11 Comprehensive Community Colleges (Bow Valley College, Grande Prairie Regional College, Keyano College, Lakeland College, Lethbridge College, Medicine Hat College, NorQuest College, Northern Lakes College, Olds College, Portage College and Red Deer College) meet the needs of more than 55,000 learners across the entire province, providing relevant, high-quality programs that benefit both local and provincial economies.
This is the third of a three-part look at the role of Alberta’s colleges during the COVID-19 pandemic: