Alberta is increasing access to career-related training for students in grades 7 to 12, the latest move from the UCP aimed at bringing a greater vocational focus to the education sector.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said at a Monday news conference the province is implementing several recommendations from a task force convened last summer to review career education for middle- and high-school students, and evaluate how best to prepare students to transition from K-12 education to a job or post-secondary studies.
Those recommendations include boosting access to off-campus education, developing and funding training for teachers and scholarships for career education programs, and improving measuring and evaluating existing programming.
The province also said it would revamp its dual-credit system — one that lets high-school students earn credits toward both their high-school diploma and a post-secondary or apprenticeship program — by addressing financial and accessibility barriers identified by the task force.
The moves are important to mitigate an anticipated shortage of skilled laborers in Alberta in upcoming years, LaGrange said.
“The recommendations from the task force will create more opportunities for hands-on learning experiences for students while helping to relieve employment pressures for industry,” LaGrange said.
“It’s critical that we prepare tomorrow’s skilled and professional workers with the training they need.”
The Career Education Task Force included school authorities and industry representatives, and surveyed more than 4,700 people involved in education to inform their recommendations, LaGrange said.
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The Monday announcement is the latest in a series of UCP policies aimed at making job preparation a larger focus of education.
Much of that has come at the post-secondary level, where the province has funneled money into boosting seats and enrollment in programs that train workers for sectors facing a high labor demand, as the province’s Advanced Education Ministry places a premium on trades- and jobs -focused programs.
Speaking at the UCP news conference, task force member David Price said exposure to jobs at a high-school level can help students figure out which careers they may want to pursue — and which aren’t a good fit.
“As a grandparent and a taxpayer, the opportunities for students to test-drive career opportunities earlier before committing to certain pathways help ensure more confident choices are made,” said Price, a director at Sunterra Group.
“Learning what careers are not preferred is valuable to reduce future education and training costs for students and families.”
Responding to the UCP career education announcement, NDP leader Rachel Notley opted to slam the government’s changes to curriculum, some of which were rolled out in schools this fall.
“I think it’s a bit ironic that we’re claiming to be more concerned about the vocational opportunities of students coming out of our K-12 system at the same time we’re imposing a curriculum on them that appears to be designed to take the the quality of education our young people received back about 50 to 75 years,” Notley said.
Notley added she believes career training is a good idea but criticized the UCP’s implementation of previous education policy since taking office in 2019.