By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Lethbridge County has thrown their support behind a proposed engineering program at the University of Lethbridge.
During their regular May 16 meeting, The University of Lethbridge reviewed a support request from the University of Lethbridge.
The university hopes to be able to offer a Bachelor of Engineering degree, and are seeking a letter of support from the county for it. They hope to start offering the course in the fall of 2020.
“The University of Lethbridge has been exploring ways to expand its programs and offerings to make them more relevant and applicable to the needs of our southern Alberta economy, and they’re looking at establishing a locally focussed engineering program, with kind of an agricultural concentration to it, and they’re in the process of applying for provincial approval for such a program,” said Larry Randle, director of community services for the county.
“For the last few years, the university has been researching and reviewing leads of southern Alberta business, to determine where gaps in skillsets may exist, and looking at what education and training programs are available to meet those needs, and they have identified a distinct shortage in engineering skills among the local workforce, particularly in relation to the agricultural sector. They see the need for a Bachelor of Engineering program design for local labour force and market needs, in conjunction with its already existing cooperative program.
“This would provide real world experience to students, and provide local business he oppertunity to connect with future potential employees, who have received appropriate training to meet, again, those local, distinct and unique labour market needs.”
Administration recommend that they provide a letter of support under Reeve Lorne Hickey’s name to the university. Randle noted that although this wouldn’t affect the county’s operations, it would help provide greater access to skilled labour for local businesses, which was identified as a need in the county’s 2018 Business Retention and Expansion Triage survey.
“Historically, council, of course, has been consistent in providing various letters of support for economic development projects, grant applications, and so on, especially when they align with the council’s strategic pillars in our strategic plan, for developing strong relationships in the region and supporting a vibrant economic environment.”
Coun. Steve Campbell said he was “always amazed at how the college and the university keep ahead of the curve of what the needs are of, kind of, southern Alberta”, noting that a lot of students who come in to attend them end up staying in the region as well.
Randle noted that there was a letter of support drafted for council to use if they so choose.
Council unanimously passed a motion to send a letter of support under the reeve’s signature for the University of Lethbridge’s Bachelor of Engineering program.