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June 18, 2012

SAIT Polytechnic addresses labour shortage with blended education

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SAIT Polytechnic’s blended learning program for apprentices is moving out of pilot stage into regular programming as the province looks at ways to address the looming worker shortage. Alberta’s new Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, the Honourable Stephen Khan, made the announcement at SAIT today.

The unique blended learning program at SAIT allows electrical, plumbing and welding apprentices to stay on the job longer and still complete their education. Students complete their theory online over 12 weeks before participating in hands-on labs using SAIT’s state-of-the-art facilities.

“SAIT is building greater flexibility into the training of skilled tradespeople through this innovative learning option,” says Irene Lewis, President and CEO of SAIT Polytechnic. “It continues to be a challenge for employers to maintain a strong workforce in the trades and this online program allows apprentices to remain on the job for longer periods of time.”

SAIT worked with Alberta’s Apprenticeship and Industry Training System (AIT) to launch the blended learning apprenticeship program as a pilot project in September 2011 to address labour shortages. By 2014, the provincial government estimates having to replace an estimated 16 percent of its construction workforce.

“The blended learning method is one of the bridges to the future that Albertans want for future generations as it enables apprentices to learn on a new and exciting platform,” says Stephen Khan, Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education. “This mode of learning delivers a unique and innovative approach to developing tradespeople and further enhances Alberta’s reputation as Canada’s source for the best our country has to offer in terms of developing skilled labour.”

SAIT’s blended learning apprenticeship programs provide online study resources that are a long way from a standard textbook. Interactive graphics, animations and videos complement reading modules to help make theory easier to understand. Online practice questions prepare apprentices for their training quality standard exams.

The curriculum content covered in the blended learning option is the same as the full-time, in-class programs, just provided in an online format.

Second and third year welding apprenticeship programs are currently available through the blended learning option.

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