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When it comes to trades, Alberta gets it right

Alex Zahavich, Director, Applied Research and Innovation Services, SAIT in Calgary December 17, 2013.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

While British Columbia looks at revamping its education system to get more students training for careers in trades, its next-door neighbour has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in growing the work force needed to support its ever-expanding resource sector. Here are four things things that are working in Alberta:

Income support

Alberta has 11 per cent of Canada's population, but graduates 20 per cent of its apprentices – nearly 8,500 in 2012. Alberta Works, a government-sponsored program, provides as much as $15,000 annually in tuition and fees for occupation-specific training. More than $75-million was provided in income support to Alberta trainees in 2012-2013.

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More than $8-million annually is dedicated from the Alberta government to workplace and aboriginal development partnerships. The money goes toward supporting specialized organizations such as Women Building Futures, a non-profit society dedicated to increasing the number of trained female tradespeople. More than 90 per cent of Women Building Futures graduates find work within six months.

Industry leads

The province has allowed industry to take the lead in many employment sectors. Industry-led collaborative projects such as Alberta Forest Products Association's "Work Wild" program, designed to attract workers to the forest industry, have been cited as key elements in ensuring employee skills match available jobs.


In 2012, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology built a trades and technology complex with the help of a $300-million investment from the provincial government. An additional $130-million has been budgeted for the construction of a Centre for Applied Technologies at its sister school, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Construction began in August.

Source: Government of Alberta; Women Building Futures

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