COVID-19 showed the need for workers to update skills

The launch of Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s new School of Continuing Education comes at an important time in our province’s history.

logo, company name: Saskatchewan Polytechnic wants workers to better their skills during COVID-19.

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Saskatchewan Polytechnic wants workers to better their skills during COVID-19.

Nearly every person and/or business in Saskatchewan has been affected by the disruption stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether this has meant a job loss or a scramble to find qualified employees, the pandemic accelerated a trend we have been witnessing for several years.

As my colleagues at Polytechnics Canada — a national association of Canada’s leading colleges, polytechnics and institutes of technology, which I chair — recently noted in a paper to the federal government on 2021 spending priorities: “Even before the pandemic, there was a need to retrain and upskill our mid-career workforce to keep up with changing skills requirements. In the post-pandemic recovery, rapid reskilling will become critical to ensuring we have the right talent in the right place at the right time.”

Here in Saskatchewan, where the nature of work has been changing due to new technologies and shifts in global markets, the need for rapid re-training is especially apparent in the highly valued resource sector and, of course, in agriculture. It is particularly crucial to employers needing to transform their organizations digitally.

The speed of the COVID-19 onslaught on every facet of life serves to remind us that there are times when both organizations and individuals must adapt quickly. Mobilizing continuing education resources to address the real needs of displaced workers is the fundamental purpose and mission of the new School of Continuing Education. These education resources will support Saskatchewan’s economic recovery.

Much like our other full-time programs, the more than 700 courses or topics available at the School of Continuing Education are market-driven. In addition, they will be updated to reflect emerging trends and best practices. Another plus is that instructors know their industries and sectors through work experience – something that has been the unique value proposition of a Sask Polytech credential all along.

While Sask Polytech has always offered an array of credentials including diplomas, certificates and, more recently, Bachelor’s degrees, the addition of micro-credentials is especially significant. This new credential represents a flexible and cost-effective strategy to advance professional skills.

As such, micro-credentials are a purpose-ready solution for adult upskilling and re-training. Employers can rely on micro-credentials to ensure focused training is delivered to their existing employees.

Providing training to employers from the public and private sectors, as well as individuals, is critical to keeping Saskatchewan competitive and an attractive place to do business. One of the points I made during the launch event with the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce for the new school on Sept. 16 is the necessity for each of us to keep our own skills updated — much the same way we keep our laptops, smart phones and tablets updated with the latest operating systems. This is how we remain relevant in an increasingly complex and digitized world.

As Saskatchewan’s only polytechnic, we have always been passionate about creating an environment where lifelong learners gain the knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve and succeed at work, in their communities and in life.

The new School of Continuing Education will make such success attainable at this pivotal time of economic recovery, for employers and workers alike.

Larry Rosia is the president and chief executive officer of Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

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