Olds College will be an Alberta training ground for rural planners starting in September.
Right now, students with an education in rural planning come from out of province because Alberta has neither a planning technician program nor an undergraduate planning degree.
The new two-year rural land use planning major at Olds College will also help address Alberta’s shortage of land-use planning technicians and development officers.
“Every municipality we talk to says we have difficulty getting people to come to the rural area, to stay in the rural area and have people that actually understand the rural landscape,” said Murray McKnight, instructor with the School of Agriculture, Land and Environment at Olds College.
“Designing where stop lights go in downtown Calgary is quite different than making comments on intensive livestock operations and where they might go.”
People trained in rural land use know how to gather and research environmental data to assess how residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural developments interact with rural landscapes and ecosystems.
McKnight said up until now, land use planning has been much more focused on urban planning and a need for planners with a rural perspective actually exists across the country.
The Alberta Association of Canadian Institute of Planners anticipates a shortage of planners trained in rural issues since about 50 per cent of members are age 50 or older.
Olds College, which is very directed towards rural programs, is well suited to providing the education planners and technicians require, McKnight said.
It will give students an opportunity to get a stable job, make a good living and be based in a rural municipality, he said.
The college was approached four years ago by directors of planning with rural municipalities to develop the program.
Up to 20 students will be accepted into the program. Applications are currently being accepted.