What's New On Campus: Red Deer College

Growing their Engineering Technology program to meet industry needs

10, Apr, 2017

What’s New on Campus?

Technology Alberta subscribers and regular readers know how proud ASET is of its strong relationships with the province’s educational institutions, particularly NAIT, Red Deer College (RDC), SAIT, and Lethbridge College (LC). Our Programs & Services staff frequently present on professional ethics to students, and ASET representatives sit on numerous program industry advisory committees. This partnership goes back to the Association’s earliest days, and is expected only to grow as we move ever closer to the universal certification of Alberta’s engineering and geoscience technology professionals.

Our annual Back to School articles have become very popular, and last fall we received a number of comments from certified technologists who were impressed by the seven capstone projects featured in the September issue. So much so, in fact, that ASET has created the Capstone Project of the Year Award, honouring the best of the best in end-of-program student initiatives. On April 1, 2017, at the AGM in Calgary, we will formally announce the inaugural recipient of this prize and believe it will become a coveted recognition of academic achievement, representing a significant addition to the curriculum vitae of any young professional.

We’re always fascinated by how much is going on at any one time on the campuses of our major educational partners and have decided that once a year simply doesn’t do them justice. The following article is a quick look at just some of what’s setting apart Alberta’s excellent technical educators

Red Deer College

A Brand New Program

Technology Alberta recently caught up with Joel Gingrich and Dale Gust, the Dean and Associate Dean, respectively, of Red Deer College’s School of Trades and Technologies. We wanted an update on RDC’s new Instrumentation Engineering Technology Program. The third of the institution’s two-year technology offerings, IET will join the Mechanical and Electrical engineering-technology options available through the College in September 2017.

TAB: You’ve had Instrumentation available to your Trades students for a while. Why the expansion to a two-year diploma program?

JG: This is less about expanding our Instrumentation Technician trades offering than it is recognising a need to grow our Engineering Technology programming beyond the current Electrical and Mechanical areas, so as to meet industry requirements. Central Alberta faces a shortage of qualified IETs, in addition to the unabated demand for our apprentice and journeyman instrumentation graduates. Technicians and technologists occupy different roles and our industry advisory committee members have told us both are necessary.

TAB: In that case, what exactly will the new program offer?

DG: Well, we’re pretty excited about the quality of what we’ve developed. Students will spend two years—or four semesters—working towards their IET diplomas. Our goal is to push their limits in both the theoretical and practical application of Instrumentation Engineering fundamentals. By the time they graduate, our IETs will have developed skills in computing and computer programs, programmable logic controllers or PLCs, process automation, design, and graphical interfaces (human machine interfaces—HMIs). This is all material our industry partners have insisted be included so that graduates can be ready to hit the ground running and meet the significant demands of a career that offers opportunities for rapid growth.

TAB: That’s impressive. Have you built in any unique features?

DG: Sure. One thing is that in the first semester students in our three engineering technology programs share all their classes, providing them a strong foundation on which to build their learning in Instrumentation, Mechanical, and Electrical.

TAB: Is that so that they can switch streams seamlessly if they discover a greater affinity for one of the other disciplines?

JG: Sure, that’s a factor. But more importantly, when they graduate and become ASET Technologists-in-Training, they’ll be expected to collaborate on multi-disciplinary projects. We want them to start the process of working with other kinds of technologists as early as possible, thereby gaining an appreciation of the important interconnection linking seemingly diverse specialisations.

TAB: Makes sense. What else stands out about the RDC program?

DG: Students have access to equipment and expertise in the College’s Centre of Innovation and Manufacturing as well as in our Makerspace…

TAB: Sorry to interrupt, Dale, but what’s a “Makerspace.”

DG: Oh, right. A “Makerspace” is a place for informal and self-directed learning that provides a workspace for students to tinker, try out solutions and work together to learn from each other. It’s available to them outside the conventional school hours, giving them the flexibility to work on projects when it’s convenient to them.

TAB: Great concept; thanks.

DG: You’re welcome. Anyway, as I was saying, among the other ways our new program stands out is that we worked with local industry stakeholders to create courses that are current and in line with what employers are looking for, and our Industry Advisory Committee will see to it that we stay on track. And one more thing we included was to provide IET graduates recognition towards all four periods of technical training in the Instrumentation Technician Apprenticeship program. That provides a flexibility many may find useful.

JG: Basically, RDC has created a unique lab environment where Technologist can learn alongside Technicians, allowing them to develop a deep understanding of each other’s roles in industry.

TAB: It sounds like a huge amount of effort went into this initiative. You must have faced some challenges along the way.

JG: Launching a new program always requires proof of demand.  With two successful IET programs already present in the province (NAIT and SAIT—Ed.), the biggest challenge was demonstrating not only that there is sufficient incremental requirement for the offering but also that that need exists specifically in our region. Industry feedback and support were instrumental—sorry about the pun but I couldn’t help myself—in identifying the importance of this programming in Central Alberta.

TAB: Speaking of need, how many spots are available for September 2017?

JG: Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending on your point of view—we’ve had so many applications that we’re on track to exceed our 30-student capacity. It proves the point we just made about demand.

TAB: You have gone out of your way on a couple of occasions to highlight the importance of industry support. Are there any partners who really stood out?

JG: Absolutely, we’d be remiss if we didn’t thank Nova Chemicals, Studon Electric and Controls, Stantec, ABB, Cenovus, Spartan Controls, AIT (for program recognition), and, of course, the good folks at ASET.

TAB: Thank you both for your time; we know how busy you are ramping up for the new offering and we appreciate the opportunity to find out more about this great addition to Alberta’s technology profession. Good luck with the IET Program.

JG: It was our pleasure.

To view the original article, CLICK HERE to visit the Winter 2017 Issue of Technology Alberta.