Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

NAIT set to help newcomers put skills to work in building trades careers

Provincial funding will help polytechnic reduce barriers to employment

After enduring the economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, Canada is set to embark upon “the most ambitious economic rebuild in generations,” according to a recent report by RBC.

The question is, Will there be enough skilled workers to do the rebuilding?

By 2028, the report continues, more than 700,000 skilled trades workers are set to retire, creating a shortfall of at least 10,000 workers. Alberta is projected to be left particularly “shorthanded.”

One solution is a new program directed at newcomers to Canada that is set to launch at NAIT, and being supported by $1.5 million over the next three years from the Government of Alberta.

“We have heard clearly from our industry partners about their ongoing challenges to find talent to support the skilled trades in Alberta,” says Laura Jo Gunter, NAIT president and CEO.

“This NAIT-led, pre-apprenticeship initiative will help meet that need by removing the barriers faced by new Canadians.”

Putting existing skills to work

nait trades teacher with student

Over the next two decades, Alberta’s population is expected to grow by roughly 2 million people. More than half of that will come from international immigration – and many of those newcomers will come with skills the province needs to prosper. Often, those skills first need to be validated.

NAIT's Accelerated Trade Entry program will provide support to newcomers and under-represented Albertans interested in apprenticeship training and reduce the cultural, financial and language barriers these individuals face. It is designed to identify what learners already know and then help them fill knowledge gaps.

“This assessment-first approach provides an opportunity for learners to ... enter the workforce faster.”

“This assessment-first approach provides an opportunity for learners to have existing skills certified so [learners] can either accelerate the earning of their credentials – or skip the training altogether [if] they already have the required skills – and enter the workforce faster,” says Brock Olive, executive director of Continuing Education and Product Development.

The Accelerated Trade Entry program, a collaboration between Continuing Education and the School of Skilled Trades, will roll out over three years:

  • Year 1 (2022-23): Assessing learners’ skills and suggesting learning pathways to target knowledge gaps. NAIT will also work with translators and subject matter experts to translate the Alberta Trade Entrance Exam into nine languages: Arabic, French, Hindu, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Spanish and Tagalog.
     
  • Year 2 (2023-24): Supporting learners as they navigate Alberta’s Apprenticeship and Industry Training entrance requirements. This includes developing courses for Alberta Trade Entrance Exam preparation and English language training specific to trades professions.
     
  • Year 3 (2024-25): Providing additional trade-specific upskilling courses such as trades safety, technical drawing, small tools, and trades math to hep learners build a strong pre-trades foundation as they specialize in their career paths.
     

The polytechnic will also work with industry to help inform curriculum development, and with newcomer centres to help connect learners to the program.

“It’s a model that fast-tracks newcomers into meaningful careers in the skilled trades,” says Gunter.

The investment is part of the Province’s Alberta at Work initiative, a collection of investments to help Albertans develop new skills and grow their careers.

“We’re excited to begin development of this program,” says Olive.


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