A new report from the Parkland Institute calls the provincial government’s Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs plan “ill-advised.”
The research organization says the plan will reduce the quality and affordability of post-secondary education in Alberta.
Report co-author Trevor Harrison said the plan’s narrow skills focus and budget cuts are built for an economy from the past, not the future.
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“The Alberta economy is changing rapidly though automation and other forces, so what we need is a really highly-skilled workforce that is able to adapt to the changes in the labour market,” he said.
“Alberta 2030 doesn’t do that. A more fulsome education… the skills that are going to provide students with really good jobs in the future and build the economy, these are not the kind of narrow skills training that Alberta 2030 seems to rely on.”
In 2020-21 and 2021-22, Lethbridge College saw its operating grant reduced by a total of 13.3 per cent, resulting in 11 budget-related layoffs.
In the past three academic years since 2019, the University of Lethbridge’s operating grant has been reduced by $15.8 million, with another $5.1-million cut expected in 2022-23, totalling more than 21 per cent of the school’s operating budget.
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U of L faculty association president Dan O’Donnell said he fears the cuts will lead to students looking outside the province for their education.
“If students can get a better education elsewhere, they’re not going to come somewhere like Lethbridge. They’re going to go to UBC (the University of British Columbia) or the University of Toronto,” he said.
“I think we really feel it, not just as staff and faculty, but as parents.”
With the shift to a skills-based economy, where re-skilling and up-skilling are the norm, there is a need to focus on lifelong learning,” Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said in a statement to Global News.
“We will co-create a post-secondary system that is affordable, accessible and reflective of our economy’s future demands.”
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The Parkland Institute report makes four recommendations:
- Reinvesting in post-secondary funding
- Strengthening the role of faculty, staff and students on general faculties councils in decision-making
- free tuition for up to the first two years of full-time undergraduate education
- Increased government transparency and accountability
Harrison said free tuition would lower the province’s revenues from post-secondary education by roughly 25 per cent, but that money would be made up for through taxes as it projects the move would see more people gain an education that leads to higher incomes.
“We know that a well-educated population is a high-earning population and is a vehicle for an improved economy,” Harrison said.
The Alberta 2030 strategy was announced by the province earlier this year.
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