Making Skills Training More Accessible for Students

New energy training centre will help Alberta meet industry demand for skilled workers.

On August 26, Lakeland College officially opened its new state-of-the-art energy training centre at its Lloydminster campus.

The 2,400 sq. metre facility has a large power engineering and heavy oil lab, six breakout training rooms, two simulation theatres, specialized computer software programs and much more.

Lakeland College's new energy centre.

Lakeland College’s new energy centre.

The new energy centre will provide students training in heavy oil and power engineering programs with world-class instruction, simulation and hands-on experience with leading-edge technology, equipment and techniques being used on worksites.

This real-world experience is helping students to develop the skills and knowledge required by today’s trades professionals and helping students gain the education needed to be successful in their lives and careers.

Leading-edge equipment, technology & simulation will help students gain the skills needed by today's trade professionals.

Leading-edge equipment, technology & simulation will help students gain the skills needed by today’s trade professionals.

Alberta is one of the world’s leading energy producers and this new facility is helping to expand our province’s training capacity in a sector that is vital to strengthening our communities, diversifying our economy and securing our province’s and country’s prosperity.

The Government of Alberta is committed to working with post-secondary institutions, industry and other partners to continue to make skills training more accessible, practical and relevant for today’s students.

Deputy Minister Rod Skura shares greetings from the ministry.

Deputy Minister Rod Skura shares greetings from the ministry at the official opening of the centre on August 26.

We provided $12.5 million in funding over three years (2011, 2012 and 2014) to help the college expand and develop its oil and gas training facilities and meet industry demand for skilled workers.

Budget 2015 – Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education

The Government of Alberta is taking steps to ensure the long-term sustainability of Campus Alberta and giving students more resources to help them learn and succeed.

Budget 2015 will start the process of moving our current post-secondary system to a more highly performing, financially sustainable and accessible model.

Over the next two years, institutions will receive transitional funding from the Access to the Future Fund to help transform the system, while working with phased-in reductions to their base operating grants.

Significant enhancements have been made to Alberta’s Student Aid Program. This includes increasing loan limits and living allowances, doubling funds for the Alberta Low Income grant; and expanding assistance for Aboriginal students and apprentices.

Students, institutions and all of our partners have a role to play in this transformation. Over the coming months, we will be asking all of our partners for their input to help develop a new five-year plan for Campus Alberta.

Read more:

Highlights from Innovation and Advanced Education’s 2015 Departmental budget 

News Release

Alberta Aboriginal Construction Careers Centres

A new pilot project in Calgary and Edmonton will help increase job-training opportunities for Aboriginal people to get into construction trades.

Aboriginal Construction Careers Centres will operate at Bow Valley College and NorQuest College main campuses and offer employment readiness training, career counselling and literacy supports to students at the facility and others in the community. During the course of the two-year pilot project, the goal is to help place 300 Aboriginal people into jobs, and over 300 people will be provided with career counselling and guidance to help enter the construction workforce.

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(Minister Don Scott introducing Premier Jim Prentice at the AACCC announcement)

Increasing post-secondary participation and developing more job-training opportunities for Aboriginal learners is a priority for this government. These centres will help answer the need for skilled workers in Alberta. The pilot will also benefit both colleges as they will continue to build upon the strong relationships they have developed within the construction industry.

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(Premier Prentice with Minister Scott (l) launching the AACCC initiatives at NorQuest and Bow Valley Colleges)

The Government of Alberta is providing $1 million to the pilot. The two institutions, industry partners and Aboriginal partners are also providing funding for the project.

For more information on the Alberta Aboriginal Construction Careers Centres please visit the AACCC website.

 

One business number and less red tape

A Message from Minister Don Scott

Last week the Alberta government took another important step in reducing red tape for Alberta’s small businesses. Bill 12, the Common Business Number Act, was introduced in the Alberta legislature and is a key component of Alberta’s Small Business Strategy. If passed, it will create the authority for Alberta to adopt the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Business Number system.

What does a Common Business Number mean for Alberta businesses?
This number makes it more convenient for businesses to work with government programs and services. Using the Common Business Number, Alberta businesses will be able to identify themselves to participating federal and provincial programs using a single business identifier, cutting time and red tape.

Small Business Strategy Highlights
New Business Advisors at The Business Link are continuing to assist businesses navigate government’s business programs, supports and regulatory information every day, with hundreds of clients served since late last fall.

Our new streamlined smallbusiness.alberta.ca website, a one-stop shop for government services information, has received over 28,000 visits since launching late last fall and is a top google search when typing “Alberta Small Business”.

Also, planning has commenced for a semi-annual small business round-table between business and Government of Alberta leaders. And we’ve been partnering with entrepreneur-led organizations, including Alberta Women Entrepreneurs and Start-Up Edmonton to ensure entrepreneurs are supported in a range of initiatives.

We are committed to working with entrepreneurs, businesses and partners to continue to deliver on the strategy’s directions.

Don Scott,
Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education

Student Aid Alberta partners with Higher Ed Points to offer new service to students

A message from Minister Don Scott

Starting January 5, 2015, Student Aid Alberta became the first provincial student aid program in Canada to offer Higher Ed Points to students – a program that allows students to turn loyalty reward points into payments toward Alberta student loans.

How does it work?
Higher Ed Points is set up so anyone, including friends and family members, can donate points to support a student who has achieved or is pursuing their goal of post-secondary education.

Higher Ed Points has an easy to use, accessible online hub where members can enter their student loan information and have their Aeroplan loyalty points converted to currency through a secure payment processing system. Higher Ed Points is working on potential agreements with other loyalty reward point programs, which could be available in the future.

Students at some institutions in Alberta may also be able to use loyalty points to pay for tuition, residence fees and meal plans. Several post-secondary institutions across Canada, including eight in Alberta, participate. The eight participating Campus Alberta institutions are: Alberta College of Art and Design; Concordia University College of Alberta; Lethbridge College; Olds College; Red Deer College; SAIT Polytechnic; King’s University; and, University of Lethbridge.

What is the conversion rate?

Rewards can be redeemed in increments of $250. The Aeroplan conversion rate is 35,000 miles for $250.

Many financial supports available for students

Partnering with Higher Ed Points provides another innovative repayment option—along with flexible repayment terms and the Repayment Assistance Program—designed to help students manage their student loan debt after graduation.

Student loans play an important role in helping Albertans access post-secondary education. In 2013/14, nearly 61,000 students received a total of $775 million in federal and provincial loans and grants through Student Aid Alberta.

I am proud to say that any Albertan who is eligible for a student loan will get it. Our student aid program also provides flexibility in repayment options, allowing students to personalize their student loan repayment plan to suit their individual needs and budget.

Alberta has many student aid programs available – loans, grants, scholarships and awards – to ensure post-secondary students can access the right funding to support their academic goals.

We are always looking at ways to enhance our services, and I am pleased we can offer this new repayment option to post-secondary students.

Don Scott
Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education

Alberta Major Projects Site

Have you ever stopped noticed that sometimes it’s the little things than can make everything run a little smoother and make life easier? We definitely take notice when the little things aren’t functioning so well…for instance when your computer takes forever to load a web page; or when you search for information and the search function isn’t finding anything you need; or when you try to access a site from your mobile device, but the site isn’t mobile friendly.

In Alberta we know that providing timely and important business information is a critical element in creating opportunities for entrepreneurs, investors, venture capital investment, and growing our economy.

Our newly upgraded online tool at majorprojects.alberta.ca helps firms identify potential supply opportunities and lets Albertans know the status of projects in the province valued at $5 million or greater.

The map is a great resource for exploring projects across Alberta using an MLS (multiple listing service) style map interface.

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We’ve recently upgraded this online tool to include: optimization for use on mobile devices, a more user-friendly experience, greater search functionality, and quicker loading capability.

Other Online Tools
This is just one of the ways the Alberta government is bringing products online to make it easier to do business.

Last year, we launched Alberta’s Economic Dashboard, an online tool that provides timely and vital Alberta economic statistics, and identifies new trends.

And last fall we introduced our new streamlined website, smallbusiness.alberta.ca, which provides a one-stop shop for government services information – helping small businesses save time and money.

We’ll continue to work on providing Albertans with more online tools that deliver better economic and business information faster.

 

Red Tape Awareness Week

A message from Minister Don Scott
When it comes to understanding and navigating government regulatory systems an entrepreneur can get extremely frustrated. When time is money and you are trying to make a living for your family, you want interactions with government to take as little time as possible.

I understand the challenges entrepreneurs face when starting and running a business. I am a small business owner and I had the same challenges when I started my own law practice in 2006. I built my practice from the ground up in Fort McMurray and certainly had many moments of frustration dealing with different levels of government.

There have been many improvements since I opened my doors in 2006, but government still has work to do. That is why I was extremely excited to become Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education and have the opportunity to support entrepreneurial success in Alberta.

CFIB Red Tape Awareness Week
This week is the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ (CFIB) Red Tape Awareness Week. The purpose of the week is to advocate for a reduction in regulatory burden for businesses in Alberta and across Canada. CFIB and their Alberta Director, Richard Truscott, are strong advocates for small business and I want to thank them for the passion they bring to their work.

This past fall I was happy to announce Alberta’s Small Business Strategy with Premier Prentice and Mr. Truscott. I am pleased that our work on the Strategy was nominated for the CFIB’s 2015 Golden Scissors Award. The Golden Scissors Award recognizes leadership in cutting red tape for Canada’s small businesses.

Small businesses and entrepreneurs thrive in Alberta
Small Business is thriving in Alberta! Small businesses make up 95 per cent of all businesses and 35 per cent of private sector jobs in Alberta. Small businesses are leaders in generating economic activity and contribute over 25 per cent of Alberta’s provincial GDP. (Our latest small business profile, 2014 Small Business, Big Impact can be read online here)

Alberta leads the country in small business creation. The CFIB ranks Alberta as the most competitive tax environment for small businesses in the country. Also, Alberta continues to dominate the rankings for Canada’s best place to start and grow a business. Alberta holds the top eight spots in CFIB’s Entrepreneurial Communities Report.

Last year the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), an internationally recognized report that you can read here, showed that Alberta has the highest level of entrepreneurship in Canada. Alberta even ranked far above the G7 country average. I was also thrilled to see that Alberta has a high rate of female entrepreneurs (60% higher than the national average).

A bigger voice for small business
All of the above tells us what Albertans already know – Albertans have an exceptional entrepreneurial spirit and our province is one of the best places on the planet to be an entrepreneur and small business owner.

That is why it is crucial that small business have a big voice in government.

Alberta’s new Small Business Strategy is helping to give small business that big voice. The strategy is a new model in government transparency, accountability and dialogue with small businesses. A couple of the first steps taken under the strategy include the new Business Advisors at The Business Link and the Alberta Small Business Resources website. Both give entrepreneurs the support they need to navigate the regulatory environment and the ability to quickly and easily provide feedback to government.

We are also working on improving service delivery through the adoption and implementation of a business service number – the One Business Number. The Business Number is based on a “one business, one number” vision where businesses are provided a single, unique business identifier when dealing with government programs. Adopting the Business Number has the potential to offer a number of benefits to both government and businesses, including: simplified registration processes; improved service delivery and program compliance; and, expanded opportunities to enable online service integration and information sharing with other jurisdictions. The Business Number is a 9-digit identifier issued by the Canada Revenue Agency to every Canadian business for federal income tax purposes. As a result, the Business Number is already recognized as a common identifier for all businesses across the country.

Regulatory reform and cutting red tape
It is important to understand that cutting red tape and regulatory reform is not as simple as removing an arbitrary number of regulations or taking out one regulation when a new regulation is added.

Provinces need regulations – these are the rules for protecting worker safety, ensuring public health, protecting the environment, providing safeguards for consumers and so on. The importance here is focussing regulatory reform on inefficient regulations and regulations that that are unduly getting in the way of small business success.

(Independent experts have confirmed that Alberta’s regulatory system is competitive, please see: 2012 Business Regulatory Benchmarking Report.)

The Small Business Strategy committed to conduct a regulatory benchmarking study every two years to assess the quality of regulations in Alberta and identify areas for improvement. We will work with entrepreneurs, businesses, industry, and partners to continue to reduce the regulatory burden for small businesses and make Alberta one of the most successful business climates in North America.

Alberta is the best place to start a small business in Canada and your government plans to keep it that way.

Don Scott
Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education

Market Modifiers — A message from the Minister

Tuition changes will improve quality and competitiveness for 25 post-secondary programs

Yesterday I released my decision to accept tuition increases under the market modifier process in 25 programs across the Campus Alberta system. This was the result of careful deliberation and an extensive review of 26 applications from 10 institutions. It is my belief that these changes will improve the quality of the educational experience for learners in these programs and also help our post-secondary institutions to compete on a more level playing field.

Market modifiers

Market modifiers are meant to correct market anomalies in the price of specific programs in Alberta when compared to programs at other institutions in Alberta and across Canada. During our review of tuition and fees with institutions and student stakeholders, we heard that tuition for some programs may not be set at appropriate levels and that limited adjustments to tuition should be considered. There are some programs in our system where costs have outpaced an institution’s ability to generate sufficient revenue, making those programs unsustainable.

How many students will be impacted by these changes

The 25 programs approved for tuition increases represent less than one per cent of the 2,950 programs available across Campus Alberta. When fully implemented, approximately eight per cent of students will be impacted by the approved market modifiers. Students currently enrolled in the affected programs will not see their tuition change.

A sustainable, accessible, high-quality post-secondary education system

A student’s post-secondary education is a shared investment between taxpayers, students, and Campus Alberta institutions. We must strike the right balance between the needs of all three.

Although there are many educational opportunities across Campus Alberta, consider the investment of an undergraduate degree. It costs approximately $20,000 per year on average for an undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree in Alberta. Of that amount, a student pays approximately 28 per cent–or $5,300 per year. The remaining cost is the responsibility of taxpayers and institutions. The Alberta government covers most of the cost, around 60-65 per cent. An average Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Alberta, for example, costs almost $30,000 per year. Of that, a student pays approximately 18 per cent of the cost—or $5,300.

This shared cost is often forgotten in discussions about tuition. Post-secondary education is a shared cost between taxpayers and students and we have to get that balance right.

To ensure program accessibility, the Alberta government provides one of the most generous Student Aid programs in the country for students to help them meet their educational goals. Our institutions must also have the ability to generate sufficient revenue to offer sustainable, high-quality programs that allow our graduates to succeed and compete nationally and internationally.

Ensuring we have the best post-secondary system in Canada

We know that post-secondary education plays a vital role in maintaining the prosperity of our province. We need a skilled, highly trained workforce to compete in a global marketplace. We also recognize that our post-secondary system faces increasing cost pressures and institutions need to be able to generate additional revenue to remain competitive.

Increasing revenue through tuition allows institutions to enhance programs and make them more responsive to student needs. For example, these accepted market modifiers will provide the 25 approved programs with an estimated combined annual revenue of $21.5 million to improve and sustain program quality.

At the end of the day our goal has to be to have the best post-secondary education system in Canada.

Minister Don Scott

A commitment to ensure small business success

A message from Minister Don Scott

This week the Prentice Government took another step to support our Economic Development Framework by making it simpler for small business to thrive in the province. Easier access to information; assistance with regulatory matters; a stronger voice on policy issues; and support and guidance for our entrepreneurs to thrive are all key directions outlined in the new Building on our Entrepreneurial Spirit: A Small Business Strategy For Alberta.

Small business helped shape this strategy
Alberta’s Small Business Strategy was developed based on the input of hundreds of small businesses and in partnership with publicly funded business service providers, the Alberta Chambers of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Last fall Dave Quest (MLA for Sherwood Park-Strathcona) led consultations with small businesses in eight communities across the province and feedback was also obtained online.

Small businesses told us what we could do to support small business success – improve and simplify government client service. Businesses said they had difficulty finding straightforward information on regulatory policy and government business support. Through the Strategy we’re acknowledging and responding to this request.

No hand-offs, no runarounds, no red tape.
Along with the strategy, Premier Prentice, Dave Quest (MLA, Sherwood Park-Strathcona) and I announced tools that will immediately help small business in Alberta.

We have a new streamlined website that provides a one-stop shop for government services information found at smallbusiness.alberta.ca. In addition, new business advisors at The Business Link (toll-free 1-844-422-7705) are ready to answer small business questions and provide easier access to government services and supports. These actions will help small businesses save time and improve their ability to do business. Our goal with both services is no hand-offs, no runarounds, and no red tape. As our strategy states, “Time is money. We’re helping to streamline the process so that small businesses get the support they need, when they need it.”

Small business owners and entrepreneurs will also have a stronger voice on policy issues that affect them. The Alberta government will work with stakeholders like the Alberta Chambers of Commerce to organize formal and regular engagement such as semi-annual small business roundtables. The Strategy also includes action on rural entrepreneurship initiatives.

Why do we need a small business strategy?
Some may say Alberta’s economy is strong and small business is thriving, why make changes? Alberta is leading the country in many measures of small business and entrepreneurial success. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Alberta small business confidence is at the highest level it has been in the last year and a half. If our province is to remain competitive and innovative, we must ensure that we promote an environment where our businesses can continue to thrive. Releasing this Strategy in a period of economic strength builds on this success and continues to improve the environment for small businesses, making them more resilient.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. They represent 95 per cent of all businesses in the province, account for over a third of private sector employment and generate over 25 per cent of Alberta’s GDP. Given the fact that small businesses play such a big role in our economy this strategy is critical. We are committed to working with entrepreneurs, businesses, industry and partners to continue to reduce the regulatory burden for small businesses and make Alberta one of the most successful business climates in North America.

New supports for Alberta small businesses 443681

(left to right) Minister Scott, Premier Jim Prentice and Richard Truscott of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business view the new Small Business website

Make Valuable Connections: Tourism Investment Forum

Alberta’s vibrant communities have a lot of compelling experiences to offer to visitors, and there is always room for new ventures in the growing tourism industry. There are many exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs across the province to invest in, which will help continue to build Alberta as a world-class destination.

For more information, visit the forum website here.