The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) began in 1916 with 11 students and two pieces of donated machinery. Over the last 100 years, SAIT has become a leader in applied education, specializing in action-based learning. Today, SAIT welcomes more than 50,000 students each year—offering degree, diploma, and certificate programs; continuing education classes; pre-employment programs; and, importantly, a long-lasting focus on apprenticeships.

Historically, an apprentice would be bound to an apprentice master for skills training, food, and a few shillings. Of course, this is a notion of the distant past. As society has evolved, although the core idea may remain, the teacher-to-student method of instruction has also evolved.

In 1948, training for apprentices under the province of Alberta’s Apprenticeship Act marked the beginning of a new era for SAIT in applied education, with 171 students enrolled in five apprenticeship programs. As the economy continued to boom, SAIT’s evolution continued and, fast-forwarding to today, now offers 35 apprenticeship and pre-employment programs.

Balancing their time between technical training and hands-on work in their chosen trade, SAIT’s apprentices are equipped with both knowledge and experience to effectively continue succeeding in the province’s growing trade industries.

“Apprenticeship is a proven education model that integrates on-the-job and classroom learning,” says Nino Belvedere, SAIT Apprentice Coordinator. “It’s highly effective for helping learners connect theory and practice—which works particularly well for students who learn best by doing.”

At SAIT, there are several pathways to take to enter a trade with varying delivery methods to meet student needs and interests. The more apprentices who can be effectively trained, the more opportunities there are to satisfy industry demands for skilled labour.

If there’s one thing that remains true about past apprentices, it’s that each individual is highly skilled in his or her trade. Whether students are using SAIT’s state-of-the-art facilities or working on the job, apprentices dedicate an unprecedented amount of time to perfecting their abilities, with some beginning their journey while still in high school.

In 2017, four SAIT competitors earned the right to represent Canada at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi in the Aerospace Technology, Cabinet Making, Culinary Arts, and Industrial Mechanic Millwright categories, respectively. To represent the nation’s top skilled youth in trades and technologies is no small accomplishment. From day one of the program, apprentices gain valuable work experience and access to professional mentors and networks to further enhance their skillset.

“[Students] represent a cultural shift that is going on right now at the high school and postsecondary levels to reposition the skilled trades as not only in-demand jobs or careers, but also requiring very high levels of capabilities as leaders and problem solvers, pursuing excellence in their particular skilled trades,” Belvedere says.

SAIT’s earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship programs, alongside grants, scholarships, and the eligibility for employment insurance, eases the financial burden students sometimes face. “The apprentice is a paid employee, developing valuable skills while adding productive value on the job,” Belvedere says. This model not only provides students with the opportunity to begin their career early, but also provides them with networking opportunities with key industry people they meet along the way.

Just as apprenticeships have evolved, SAIT works to improve and develop its apprenticeship curriculum. The in-house development of modules allows for regular updates, and improvements to training scenarios are made as the industry continues to evolve, further ensuring student success. Apprentices have never been more vital in today’s modern workforce. As an educational institution and training ground for such skilled workers, SAIT’s nimble approach and industry connections provide a successful platform for apprentices to thrive in this ever-changing world of work.

Shelby Feldman

Communications Coordinator, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology


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