[October 5, 2012] High Prairie, AB—The $5.3 million trades and pre-employment training program designed to develop a strong labour pool for northern Alberta celebrated its grand opening today.
The High Prairie Regional Training and Development Centre is a partnership between Northern Lakes College, Tolko Industries, and the Northern Alberta Development Council. Funding for this project has been provided, in part, by the Rural Alberta Development Fund. The program focuses on providing hands-on training to Career and Technology Studies (CTS) students in grades 10 to 12 enrolled in dual-credit high school/college programming for electrician, welder, millwright, process operator, and power engineering.
Greetings were brought from President & CEO of Northern Lakes College, Rick Neidig; Tolko Industries vice-president Oriented Strand Board and Kraft Papers, Jim Baskerville; Rural Alberta Development Fund Managing Director, Derek Hudson; Northern Alberta Development Council CEO, Cathy Goulet; Grand Chief Rose Laboucan, Lesser Slave Lake Indian Regional Council; Barry Sharkawi, Counsellor Town of High Prairie; Alvin Billings, Reeve, Municipal District of Big Lakes; Messages were imparted from Pearl Calahasen, MLA, Lesser Slave Lake on behalf of Veryln Olson, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development;
Over 120 high school and Northern Lakes College students from across the region turned out for the celebrations. Students and attendees were invited to participate in tours of the Tolko facilities as well as a Try-A-Trade, where individuals could partake in a millwright and welding project.
Tolko’s Jim Baskerville came up with the initiative of establishing a training centre at the High Prairie plant in 2010. He said, “Tolko made a large investment in our High Prairie plant and while the mill is idle we are pleased we’ve been able to provide the facility to develop scarce skills for the resource industry and the community. There is a growing requirement to build trades that can be transferred amongst resource-based and manufacturing industries. High Prairie’s new application as a training centre will make a significant contribution to the lives of many.”
Commenting on this, Tolko CEO Brad Thorlakson said, “As with several Canadian industries, the forestry sector has had to redesign its future, having gone through a really tough economic cycle recently. The indefinite curtailment of Tolko’s High Prairie mill in 2007 had a major impact on the community. Our challenge now is not only to find new markets and improve our own workforce effectiveness, but to build credibility in the industry again. We have an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of employment in the resource sector, and that forestry and its related industries can once again bring sustainable employment to Alberta’s rural communities.”
Funding, in part, for the project provided by Rural Alberta Development Fund will drive the program until December 31, 2013 after which the project will become self-sustaining through regional partnerships.
“The Rural Alberta Development Fund is pleased to provide critical launch funding to this unique, educational partnership between the public and private sectors,” said Marie Logan, Chair of the Board of Directors. “We anticipate tremendous benefits within the region to develop newly trained, highly skilled young people.”
This collaborative partnership capitalizes on the expertise brought to the project by each organization. Northern Lakes College brings post-secondary education proficiency and resources; regional schools will provide guidance on career and academic planning; Tolko will oversee operations and maintenance at the mill facility; and the Northern Alberta Development Council will monitor key performance measures and reporting. Strong supporters of the project include several school divisions who will offer dual-credit opportunities to their students, and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology who have made their “NAIT in Motion” lab available for this project. The first student intake occurred in September, 2012.
“Northern Lakes College continuously cultivates partnerships to enhance and develop practical training to get northern Albertans work ready,” said Rick Neidig, CEO & President of Northern Lakes College. “This project allows students, while still in high school, the ability to acquire both high school and college level credits for future training. Students will have greater incentive to continue direct to career training after high school and will enter the work force earlier, addressing two critical areas in our region: high school transition rates and skilled labour shortages.”
High school students interested in participating in the dual credit program are asked to speak to their school counselor.
For media inquiries please contact:
Tolko Industries Ltd.
Assistant Director, External Relations
Northern Lakes College
Rural Alberta Development Fund
ph. 780.835.3279 office; 780.251.0119 cell