Spotlight: Dual credits show need for labourers
There is a high need for trades people in Northern Alberta.
That was a message that came through repeatedly at a May 17 information session about dual credits, attended by students and parents, held at E.W. Pratt School in High Prairie.
The dual credit program, a partnership between High Prairie School Division and Northern Lakes College, allows HPSD students to take courses in programs such as millwright, health care aide, forestry, welding and power engineering and get both their Career and Technology Studies credits for high school, which are required, and credit for the program at a post-secondary level.
Dual credit offerings began in September 2011 and have proven popular with students, says division counsellor Wendy Moore.
Several of those attending the session also said such offerings are popular with potential employers, who now have to adapt to new technologies and to globalization in order to remain competitive, said Moore.
Some of the trades programs require pre-entry interviews, which are an opportunity for a student to meet potential employers, she noted..
“It’s a chance for you to make an impression on them.”
Moore said the dual credit programs being offered were selected to reflect the employment needs and demands of this area, which are expected to rise over the next few years.
“We’re going to be losing 40 to 60 per cent of our skilled labour force. They’re going to be retiring. That’s going to leave a huge hole.”
George Dashkewytch, dual credit administrator with Northern Lakes College, agreed.
“The average age of a millwright in Alberta is 60 years old, so there’s a big demand,” said Dashkewytch.
He said during a recent meeting at Cadotte Lake, PennWest representatives told him they will need at least 40 power engineers over the next few years and Cenovus in Wabasca will require between 700 and 1,000 in the same period.
“It was an eye-opener for me to see an employer salivating,” noted Dashkewytch.
“You can walk out the door and there’ll be an employer waiting to hire you.”
Dashkewytch stressed that, as dual credit students come out of high school with the skills to take these jobs, companies won’t have to look far for employees, and workers will be more able to stay at or near home.
Moore said that for many trades in the program, students can go for a Red Seal designation, which would allow them to work anywhere in Canada.
Ken Shaw, chair of the local school board committee in Gift Lake, suggested one more trade be added to the dual credits program.
“I get tons of calls every week for pipe-fitters,” said Shaw, adding that one company alone is looking for 200 pipefitters in the next while. He said students from his area can fulfill that demand.
“Aboriginal and Metis communities are the fastest-growing communities around.”
The session also made clear that the labour shortages extend beyond the trades area.
“I have employers calling me all the time. They’re desperate,” noted Health Care Aide program instructor Donna Shumaker, adding graduates may begin as part-time employees but that often quickly goes to full-time.
“I think (the shortage) is everywhere in Alberta,” she said, adding it will increase as an aging population needs more care.
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