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Now the time to act on Alberta's post-secondary diversification plans: research

University of Calgary Public School of Policy research paper explores the risks of diversifying post-secondary programs in a post oil province

Maria Dimancheva, 14, from Branton Junior High School, works on soldering at SAIT's Explore IT event.

Jennifer Friesen / For Metro

Maria Dimancheva, 14, from Branton Junior High School, works on soldering at SAIT's Explore IT event.

Who should the schools of tomorrow be training? It's not clear, but a new research paper is suggesting now is the time to figure it out.

As the province's economy and oil and gas industry tentatively show signs of bouncing back, a University of Calgary Public School of Policy paper explores what the next steps for Alberta's post-secondary institutions should be.

The research paper explores the post-secondary system and whether or not there needs to be a shift in the programming offered at these institutions as Alberta continues to see changes in the energy sector as oil and gas industry.

"Are we comfortable going forward with the way it is now?" said Herb Emery, research fellow.

"With the programs that were kind of built around the demands of the energy economy, or do we see a need for these organizations and institutions to think about changing what they're educating people for and the research they're conducting."

He said Alberta has built up a world-class post-secondary system based on the wealth created by the energy sector, but with those down in the dumps it's unclear if schools have adapted correct training should the oil and gas sectors not come back.

"We may want to start thinking ahead about how we take gambles if we want to try new programs and try and plan ahead for a post-oil economy, which is hard to predict," Emery said.

And according to the research paper, now is the time to act and make those decisions, whether it's staying the course or shifting gears in how post-secondary institutions train their students.

"By planning ahead, establishing what the post-secondary system is from the perspective of all the stakeholders, particularly taxpayers and students so that we can make a rational and informed decision about how to adjust when (provincial) revenues are much lower, and we can't just grow out of it."

Chris Gerritsen, SAIT spokesperson said their program advisory councils connect directly with industry to learn about what they need from graduates and tweak the content they're presenting in courses based on what they hear.

“We always welcome research. SAIT has seen a lot of change over the last century, but our unwavering commitment to student success and our connection to industry has remained constant," Gerritsen said. ​ "We are nimble, relevant and we evolve alongside (industry)."

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