The Alberta government announced a funding of around $15 million dollars over the next three years for Apprenticeship Learning Grants across Albertan post-secondaries, including NAIT and Red Deer Polytechnic. The funding, along with others that were announced for the past few weeks, will be in motion only if Budget 2023 passes legislation.
Apprenticeships are a blend of on-the-job training with in-class learning. Many industries, such as heavy-duty machinery and electricians, use apprenticeships to get tradespeople in industry quicker. According to Kaycee Madu, Minister of Skilled Trades and Professions, it’s an important part of the education of skilled trades workers. “[Apprenticeships] are a key to preparing Albertans for careers in the skilled trades.” Madu explained that they are expecting a higher number of retirements over the next few years,which is where he believes students and apprenticeships come in. “Within that big picture, skilled trades are more vital than ever, and they are offering more and more opportunities every day,” said Madu.
According to Madu, this trend has already shown in the number of applicants across the province; registrations went from 7,800 in 2020 to 15,600 in 2022. ”These annual increases are a clear indicator of the demand for programming and the strength of Alberta’s economy,” Madu said in the March 6 announcement.
The funding aims to add 1000 seats in high-demand apprenticeship programs across the province. For Minister Madu and the government, this is also a win-win for the Alberta economy. “More people will be able to complete education for a rewarding new career. And our province can depend on having the talent we needed to ensure our continuing prosperity.” He adds that this will also incentivise international and local students and entrepreneurs.
For the School of Skilled Trades, this potential investment could make a big difference for a program that has to reject more students than they’d like. For Matthew Lindberg, Dean for the School of Skilled Trades at NAIT, any announcement about apprenticeship funding is a good sign. “Especially when it comes to seeing the volume of apprentices that are trying to get into our programs and some of the wait lists that are developing. The funding is going to help us meet that need now and in the future.”
There is still a need for funding, despite only about 20 per cent of apprenticeships being spent in person. Lindberg explains that it’s more than just seats in a classroom. Looking around the room, he showed a semi-truck for heavy-duty machinery and workstations set up with equipment. “There’s a lot of resources that goes into developing apprenticeship programming and then keeping it current. We need to be able to move forward with new technologies. They are coming into trades and as they come into our environment and so does the cost of keeping our spaces current and meeting industry needs.” He added that every seat they open for apprenticeship programs requires more funding, “That’s really what we’re looking for from this government is to continue with that commitment to support that apprenticeship growth and meet what industry needs.”
There’s still no details in terms of how many seats NAIT will get from the funding.
Cover photo via CTV News Edmonton