Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Mobile Training Labs Expand Learning Opportunities

Chaz Osburn interviewed Dr. Larry Rosia, President and CEO, Saskatchewan Polytechnic; Board Chair, Polytechnics Canada and past-President, Post-Secondary International Network (PIN)

While the Internet has opened teaching and learning opportunities that few of us could have envisioned a generation ago, hands-on learning opportunities continue to be an important component of the polytechnic experience.
This is especially true at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, which serves students in four diverse communities in Saskatchewan, Canada. The institution’s focus on experiential learning, applied research and trades training provides students with critical thinking skills that businesses need, allowing graduates to contribute to their jobs from the first day of employment.
Saskatchewan is a large province in terms of its land size. This can make it difficult for some students, particularly those in remote communities where travel options are limited, to take advantage of the equipment they will need to be familiar with to do their jobs.
Sask Polytech’s mobile training labs, which are operated in conjunction with educational partners and employers, expand provincial training capacity and increase access to trades training by taking shop facilities and instructors to remote areas of Saskatchewan.
Each lab includes a semi-trailer unit with pop-out sides that transform into a spacious training facility. Shops accommodate a range of programs, including welding, industrial mechanics and electrical.
‘These labs provide 1,100 square feet of space and can accommodate up to a dozen students,’ explains Dr Rosia, President & CEO. ‘Each lab contains advanced equipment, tools and training aids and can be set up as a classroom or workshop, depending on program requirements.’
Since the first mobile training lab was deployed 13 years ago, 31 communities have welcomed them, and hundreds of students have set foot inside as they worked towards careers in the trades, including welding, electrician, machinist and industrial mechanics. Today, three mobile training labs bring a variety of trades training to rural and remote communities across Saskatchewan.
The labs make training more accessible for students who are unable to move to urban centres, and they increase the participation of Indigenous students. Indigenous students comprise approximately 19 percent of student enrolment.
Sask Polytech partners with regional colleges and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT) to expand the impact of trades training outside of key urban areas through the use of the mobile training labs.
‘Training sessions last from seven to twenty weeks, depending on the program delivered,’ says Dr. Rosia, ‘and the instructors we use are excellent as many have direct connections to the industries we serve.’
Sask Polytech’s strong links to business and industry are another reason the mobile labs have been so successful.
At Sask Polytech, programs are based on labour market needs. As well, the institution works closely with industry to develop curriculum and develop applied research partnerships to help employers access funding and find solutions to real-world problems.
Recent findings show 95 percent of employers say they would hire a Sask Polytech graduate again.
‘It’s one of the reasons I often say that Saskatchewan runs on Saskatchewan Polytechnic,’ says Dr. Rosia.

Federation News

San Sebastian is preparing for hosting the 10th WFCP Congress

AUTHOR: Inge Gorostiaga, 2020 WFCP Congress Organisation Manager

Ongi etorri!

It is the first word that anyone who arrives in the Basque Country hears. It means ‘welcome’ in Basque, our native language whose origins are still unknown. San Sebastian, located in the Basque Country, will host the new edition of the biennial congress of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) in October this year.
In less than 250 days, professionals from all over the world will share their knowledge in this city, in a meeting co-organized by the WFCP, the Association Of Colleges (AoC) from the United Kingdom and Tknika from the Basque Country.
The theme of this edition, ‘TVET Excellence for all’, rather than a statement of good intentions, is in fact an imperative need for all the societies that wish to move forward based on sustainable development. It is the reason why the WFCP 2020 congress will be held in San Sebastian, located in one of the regions of Europe with the lowest rates of inequality and home to Tknika, one of the centres of excellence that the European Commission has designated as a role model for the area of TVET.
Excellence will cease to be excellence if people are left behind. The conversation will highlight different points such as the global economy, gender equality or the phenomenon of migration, among other topics, all of which are closely connected to the area of TVET. At the WFCP 2020 conference – October 15th and 16th – we will listen to internationally acclaimed industry leaders in a context of constant change, we will attend workshops side by side with professionals from all over the world who have launched successful projects, and we will visit educational centres which are nowadays an international reference in the field of TVET.
The WFCP 2020 Congress includes several events spread over a week, including the two-day conference, the Awards of Excellence dinner, the Affinity Groups workshops, visits to Tknika and TVET centres, networking opportunities, the Youth Camp for TVET students and the Leadership Institute.
Ideas, contacts and reflection all within the framework of a city that is constantly staring at the sea, surrounded by nature, and brimming with rich cultural activities and world-renowned gastronomy. The Tknika Organising Committee of the Congress, together with the WFCP and the AoC, is already working hard to make this meeting, the world’s leading event of TVET, unique and to keep inspiring institutions and education professionals to make ours a key sector give hope and a future to all boys and girls.
Registrations for TVET Excellence for all are open.
For more information and the latest updates, check our website www.wfcp2020.eus.
Subscribe to the newsletter to keep up to date with Congress news.
Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @wfcp2020

Apply for the WFCP Awards of Excellence by the end of February

If your institute has leading practices, nominate for the 2020 WFCP Awards of Excellence! The Awards are presented in eight categories – Access to Learning and Employment, Applied Research, Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Development, Leadership Development, Higher Technical Skills, Student Support Services, and Partnership with Industry.
Nominations close on February 28, 2020 (11:59 p.m. Canada/US Eastern Standard Time) to WFCP members and their member institutions. Submit the Form by mail or via email and have your achievement recognized on the world stage at the 2020 WFCP World Congress.

Sustainability in building practices gives Box Hill Institute in Australia Bronze Awards of Excellence

The 2018 Bronze Award of Excellence in the Green Colleges category went to Box Hill Institute. This TAFE Institute in Melbourne, Australia, is dedicated to sustainability initiatives within its Building Design department and has introduced Passive House Training and Certification into Australia. The latter is a building standard that places strict limits on energy consumption and air tightness while also requiring high levels of thermal comfort.
The Institute sent its trainers overseas to become certified to teach sustainable building practices and developed the Certified Passive House Designer and the Certified Passive House Tradesperson programs. According to the Institute, it has two objectives. First, it aims to position its students into the jobs of the future. Second, it endeavours to increase the popularity of sustainable building technologies and directly affect the environmental sustainability of the cities where their graduates will work.
Box Hill Institute’s representatives say the high employability rate of their Building Design students is ‘an example of how being a ‘step ahead’ of industry rather than waiting for the industry to catch up with overseas developments creates a push-through effect to sustainable methods.’
Find more details about Box Hill Institute and other award-winning projects in the 2018 WFCP World Best Practices Guide in Professional and Technical Education and Training.
The Green Colleges category is now Sustainable Development to recognise the stronger focus on deploying sustainability practices through the teaching and training of member institutes. Nomination for the 2020 Awards of Excellence are still open to February 28, 2020, as outlined above.

Conference Experience

Look 100 Forward at the 100th AACC Annual Convention

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) will honor the past and look to the future at its 100th Annual Convention, March 28–30, at National Harbor, Maryland. The theme of the 2020 convention is “100 Forward.”
Each year, the AACC convention shines a spotlight on U.S. community colleges and the trends and issues impacting the sector. More than 2,000 people gather for networking and learning and take part in more than 250 sessions. This year’s convention features session tracks for community college faculty, mid-managers, senior leaders, and CEOs. Session focus areas include closing achievement gaps, institutional transformation, equity, collaboration, teaching and learning, innovative technology and more. Sessions will be presented in several ways – from traditional, lecture-style talks to interactive “campfire” sessions.
A number of pre-convention workshops also will be held for those who want to get a head start on their convention experience. Meeting participants can attend the College Promise Campaign Summit, the Student Parent Summit, or the Developmental Education Reforms in Practice workshop, all taking place Saturday, March 28. There are also a number of pre-convention workshops offered for a fee, including Advocates in Action, Equity-Centered Leadership, Starting Your Pathways Journey, and workshops for new CEOs, chiefs of staff and faculty leaders.
As always, international attendees will have an opportunity to engage in campus visits, receive personalized session recommendations, and obtain local sightseeing suggestions.
New this year is Birds of a Feather, which allows attendees interested in specific topics, such as technology, equity, etc., to meet up with others who have similar interests and discuss challenges and promising practices in an informal, unstructured way.
The convention will culminate with a birthday bash celebrating AACC’s 100th birthday on Monday, March 30, at the Awards of Excellence Gala.
Take a look at the promotional video. The latest episode AACC’s Community College Voice podcast features more information about the convention. Listen here.
Planning to attend? Register here.

Research and Innovation

TVET must centre in the response to climate change

AUTHOR: Craig Robertson, WFCP Chair, CEO of TAFE Directors Australia
Towering flames licked Australia’s capital as political leaders returned for the new parliamentary year as if to warn them that the impacts of climate change are here, now. The fires in Canberra’s surroundings were the tail end of a catastrophic fire season across the South-East of the nation. Over 110,000 square kilometres, the equivalent of Denmark, Switzerland and Belgium combined, have been lost to fire. Thirty-three lives have been lost and 2,700 homes razed by the fires. Ecologists have estimated over 1 billion wildlife have also perished.
This summer has woken many Australians from a climate-change denial slumber. A sense that the next generation will clean up the problem is now worn as a guilty stain.
Australia is the lucky country – it’s the largest exporter of coal, and with 812,000 international students has the highest ratio of international students per head of population, and 29 per cent of the population are born overseas.
Being so globally dependent and yet seeing the impacts of climate change first-hand perhaps sits Australia, more than any country, at the world’s crossroads in terms of next steps. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has identified technology as the mitigation strategy. Many would suggest reducing carbon emissions must be the first step. In any event, adjustment is required.
When Australia opened itself to global trade many years ago, it recognised many industries would close and jobs lost. Technical and vocational education was seen as mitigation – to help citizens acquire new-world skills to transition to new work. TVET must rise to the fore again, to lead the technology diffusion that mitigation will demand.
One thing for sure, we have appreciated the messages of support from around the WFCP family.

AI vs. automation: sounds similarly, affects differently

Analysis showing that many white-collar jobs are at risk due to Artificial Intelligence (AI) has surprised many commentators, according to an article from the Brookings Institute. While most research and analysis sees automation risking the jobs of those with low to middle skills, the article refers to a Brookings research piece which contends AI, or its subset, machine learning, has the potential to transform work roles involved in applying intelligence.

Predictive, mostly white-collar occupations seem set to be disrupted by machine learning. “Prediction under conditions of uncertainty…is a widespread and challenging aspect of many information-sector jobs in health, business, management, marketing, and education,” authors of the report contend.
The first important steps to take is to recognize the significant difference between automation and AI. The article by Brookings’ Michael Gaynor says ‘Highlighting these distinctions is critical to understanding what types of workers are most vulnerable, and what we can do to help them.’ While automation might replace those jobs that engage physical and cognitive tasks, ‘especially those that are predictable and routine’, AI might substitute interpersonal and intelligent duties, including planning, prediction, management of people, problem-solving, and decision making.
It means that any job across any industry and service can be affected soon. That is why colleges can be at the forefront in rethinking existing curricula to prepare students to navigate technological changes in their fields of occupation. As Quest University’s social sciences professor Doug Munroe says it is more important to teach current students how to learn and know what they need to learn rather than teaching them legacy skills. ‘We are trying to encourage the development of metacognitive skills… to manipulate the way you learn and the way you think, consciously.’

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Trends and Challenges in TVET

Sustainability Literacy: Growth of ‘green jobs’ lead to changes in community college curricula

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics ‘green jobs’ are among the fastest-growing careers in the US. Deniss Pierce mentions in his article ‘Going for the Green’, the ‘green jobs’ concept encompasses any job ‘in which employees are making strategic decisions about what resources to consume’. The US Department of Labor estimates that the two occupations to ‘have the fastest growth through 2026 are solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians’. Wastewater treatment workers are expected to be in high demand as well.

Because of the rising need for workers to fill ‘green’ positions and the blooming interest among students in environmental careers, American community colleges are developing new courses and degree programs to meet these demands. One of the main challenges is that it is practically impossible to find a textbook to teach those courses: the technologies are evolving and changing too rapidly. That is why John Brophy, director of environmental technology programs for City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), places a strong focus on guest speakers in his renewable energies courses.
Aside from preparing students for ‘green jobs’, American community colleges also see a broader value in providing students with sustainability literacy. ‘You bring what you know about sustainability to any job you do. Our students need to know that. It’s not just solar and wind technicians who have an impact,’ says Debra Rowe, president of the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and a faculty member who teaches about sustainable technologies at Michigan’s Oakland Community College.