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Red Deer Polytechnic welcomes prospect of more apprenticeship students with government investment

$15 million over the next three years will be spent on creating additional apprenticeship spots.
Red Deer Polytechnic president Stuart Cullum. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Central Alberta and Red Deer Polytechnic are both ready for growth, said RDP president Stuart Cullum, who welcomed the creation of 1,000 more apprenticeship spaces for Alberta students going into high-demand skilled trades.

Since the labour market is hampered whenever there are labour shortages, Cullum is pleased the government is providing a funding boost of $15 million over three years to Apprenticeship Learning Grants.

With this investment — which is expected to create more than 1,000 new apprenticeship spaces — the government’s total apprenticeship funding will be $42 million in 2023-24.

At a Tuesday press conference with the Minster of Skilled Trades and Professions Kaycee Madu at Edmonton’s Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), Cullum expressed appreciation for the government’s recognition that new apprenticeship seats need to be spread throughout the province — including central Alberta, “which is a key region for Alberta’s economic prosperity.”

The new spots created with Apprenticeship Learning Grants will be allocated to post-secondary institutions based on student demand and workforce data for in-demand skilled trades.

The former Red Deer College had been training people for the trades for decades, and is the third largest educator of skilled trades in Alberta, said Cullum, who noted 3,500 apprenticeship students are being trained this year in 16 different programs at RDP.

Now “as a polytechnic we are set to grow… especially in the trades,” said Cullum, who noted demand is particularly high for mechanical, construction and pipe trades.

He feels the expansion of apprenticeship spaces “ensures Red Deer Polytechnic can address the increased demand for skilled labour and trades training as Alberta industry and business continue to grow and prosper.”

Apprenticeship programs work as a partnership between industry and post-secondary institutions, allowing students to get hands-on experience between periods of classroom learning.

Registration in Alberta’s apprenticeship programs increased to more than 15,600 in 2022 from 7,820 in 2020.

Madu spoke at the press conference about this province leading the country in economic growth and continuing to diversify.

He said this province needs to continue providing a skilled workforce that can respond to the needs of industry, so as people retire, there needs to be more skilled workers to replace them.

Each new seat created through this funding will help secure Alberta’s future as a global competitor, said Madu. “This investment will help post-secondary institutions across Alberta create new spaces for students to build rewarding careers” in well-paying jobs.

In the 2022-23 school year, 11 post-secondary institutions across Alberta are offering a combined total of about 22,000 seats in apprenticeship classroom instruction.

In Alberta, there are apprenticeship education programs in 47 designated trades.

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Stuart Cullum, RDP president said new provincial grants will help with the “increased demand for skilled labour and trades training”. (Photo contributed)