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NAIT President Hopes To Transform Polytechnic Ed

Laura Jo Gunter

By Zachary Flynn

“I would like to say that I brought some form of innovation that really helped shape polytechnic education, making it more accessible to a larger audience,” said NAIT’s new president and CEO, Laura Jo Gunter, on what she would like herself to be known for at NAIT.

“Something around that upskilling and reskilling piece, but that ability for people to continue their education. I’ve been spending a lot of time around micro-credentialing because I think that might be one of those answers, but it’s a big problem to solve.”

According to the Online Schools Centre, micro-credentials are small, specific certifications that showcase a person’s skill in a particular area. These credentials are currently offered at a small scale in some schools, such as the Alberta University of the Arts, which recently implemented its micro-credentialing programs in February 2020.

Gunter hopes that these additional credentials would set NAIT students up for greater success when they graduate and begin looking for work.

“How is each student able to distinguish themselves so that employers can more easily pick the student or the graduate that’s right for them, and the graduate be able to pick the work environment that’s right for them?” said Gunter.

“Helping [students] find that that stronger connection and a way of making those skills more apparent is something that I’m pretty passionate about. That would be where I really would like to have that change made.”

Gunter believes that NAIT’s history as a polytechnic and trades school makes it a good candidate for micro-credential opportunities.

“One of our strengths is that we understand how to get those skills out, and we also understand how to do it in a short period of time if we had to,” she said.

Gunter said that these micro-credentialing programs might offer a unique opportunity for continuing education.

“Micro-credentials are credentials that could be stacked, and that can lead to other credentials if you should need to. If done right, micro-credentialing really allows you to not only capture and represent the learning that you do but also the learning that you’ve had that may not be formal,” said Gunter.

She added that one of the challenges of implementing these programs and administering micro-credentials is the formal testing and recognition of the achievement.

“There’s a lot of work that we need to do to really get micro-credentials to a point of recognition. Part of that recognition will be the fact that these micro-credentials will be assessed – you can’t have a credential without assessment,” said Gunter.

Gunter hopes that micro-credentialing programs can help showcase the knowledge that students and workers have that they may not have directly picked up in their program.

“Once you leave your school, you don’t stop learning – you actually learn a whole bunch, it’s just it’s very hard to represent. I think this is part of a larger movement where we’re really going to have to be able to be more efficient about filling in gaps and how we assess people, to demonstrate the skills they have.”

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