The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAlT) was granted the first applied degree program in its 82 year history in 1995 by Alberta Advanced Education and Career Development. This degree program was established to provide enhanced education to appropriate Engineering Technology Diploma graduates and to those with comparable backgrounds. It provides local access to advanced education for both recent graduates and persons currently employed in the industry. Until now, graduates of two-year technology programs have had to travel out of the province to obtain significant credit toward a degree program, usually to the USA.
The program was established with the help of an industry advisory committee and started with 24 evening students in September 1995. A second intake of evening students began in September 1996 along with a new class of 50 full-time day students, for a total of over 100 within a year of program initiation. Currently there are a total of 280 students involved at various stages, and 15 graduates. Although the program is new and novel there has been great interest, partly because of its flexible delivery, content and entrance requirements that allow students from varying backgrounds to be admitted. Due to this flexible approach, a number of the current students already hold B.Sc. or M.Sc. degrees in science and engineering.
This paper details the reasons for the establishment of the degree program, its two-tier structure, course content, the credit work experience concept, and how and why the industry is involved for the benefit of all parties.
The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAlT), one of Canada's oldest and most respected post-secondary technical institutes, has been meeting the skills training needs of learners, employers, and the economy for more than eight decades. The quality of training delivered is widely evident in graduate employment rates which consistently average over 90%.
Demand has been growing steadily over the past several decades for technologists and technicians with advanced skills both in fields where training has traditionally been available only at a career level, and in new industry sectors and job categories. The training required to meet these demands might indeed be available in the province, but often in a discontinuous fashion and perhaps from incompatible training sources. Relying on multiple and potentially incompatible sources is an expensive, time consuming, and piecemeal approach to meeting some very real and pressing economic development needs. From the learners' perspective, the lack of meaningful credential at the conclusion of the period of study is also a major disadvantage or deterrent.
To meet the demand for advanced technical training, SAlT has started to offer degrees in selected areas which reflect the needs of the industry, learner demands, and the economic development of the province. Alberta has been piloting eight new applied degree programs since September 1995. A maximum of two applied degrees was approved initially for each college or institute in the province.