College training land-use planners

As rural Alberta’s population grows, so does the need for land-use planning professionals trained to deal with the unique challenges there.

As rural Alberta’s population grows, so does the need for land-use planning professionals trained to deal with the unique challenges there.

Olds College has responded with an environmental stewardship and rural planning major within its Land and Water Resources diploma program. By next year, students will be graduating with a certified planning technician (CPT) designation.

Bob Hoffos, an instructor in the college’s School of Environment, said the rapid development in rural Alberta has created challenges for many towns and counties.

“They need planners, they need assistants, they need people to do the research and the maps and the GPS and all the work that goes into making good developments.”

Olds College’s new environmental stewardship and rural planning major includes courses related to soils, water, ecology and plants, as well as others focused on municipal resources and planning, said Hoffos. Together, they provide an overview of “how to plan development in an environmentally sensitive way.”

Courses for the new major have been offered for the last 1 1/2 years, said Hoffos. But it was only last month that accreditation from the Canadian Association of Certified Planning Technicians (CACPT) was confirmed.

“The fact that we got that at the same time that we were rolling out the program worked out great.”

Hoffos said students interested in rural planning had few options before.

“Most of the programs out there are called urban and regional planning. This program really focuses on the rural planning and rural environment — that does make it unique.

“We are really the only two-year diploma program with a rural component in planning.”

Graduates should be able to find work with municipalities as assistant planners or assistant ag fieldmen, said Hoffos, or at planning, environmental or agricultural consulting firms.

They could also transfer to the University of Lethbridge and work toward a bachelor of science degree in environmental science, he said. Royal Roads University in Victoria is another transfer option, and discussions with other universities are also taking place.

Hoffos praised Murray McKnight, Olds College’s lead planning instructor, and Harry Harker, an adjunct professor at the college, for “championing” development of the new major.

“We’ve been working on this for five years.”

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