Apprenticeship enrolment makes small gains

SAIT’s apprenticeship programs are showing slow signs of recovery after a substantial decrease in enrolment last year. Dean of the School of Transportation Brian Moukperian met with the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training (AIT) last month, and went over close to 30 programs to determine the future number of enrolling apprenticeship students.
“The number went up 20 more apprentices,” said Moukperian.  “We were sort of disappointed with that. We thought it would go up 100 (seats).”
However, he predicts programs recovering, rather than declining, and the growth is on par.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed because we are still getting minor increases here and there,” said Moukperian.  “I would hope by 2012 our apprenticeship numbers will return to what they were in 2008.”
In the 2009 to 2010 academic year, enrolment numbers dropped by approximately 14 per cent, leaving seats in the classrooms empty and instructors without jobs.
The drop came as a result of economic struggle, something students could attest to.
Jordan Nerenberg, a pipefitting apprentice, said he saw the impact.  There was a huge hit on companies,” he said.  “There were a lot of pay cuts, and a lot of projects that got shut down.”
Nerenberg is part of the Local Union 488, and has been contracted out to different companies. Over the past year, he said obtaining an apprenticeship through Local 488 has been more challenging, because companies could not afford to bring on an apprentice.
But as 2011 carries on, the amount of apprenticeship enrolments is climbing, and economic upturn is not the only force behind the recovery.
AIT recently poured $600,000 into SAIT’s apprenticeship program, opening different doors for students looking to continue their education.
As of September 2010, a blended course combining both online and in class time became available, making it easier for students to maintain full-time jobs. “It’s a bit of a changing landscape,” said Moukperian.  “While our apprenticeship numbers have seen steady decline based in the economy, we have been able to secure other one-time projects in order to improve the quality of our delivery.”
Moukperian said pre-
employment classes were also opened for students who can’t fully commit to any apprenticeship. Most pre-employment courses are 24 weeks.

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