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University status “one of, if not the most singular, strategic economic development” initiative – Council on RDC Polytechnic announcement

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Mayor Veer statement on Red Deer College announcement on behalf of Council

Today, Advanced Education Minister Demertios Nicolaides announced Red Deer College will become a polytechnic institution, as a result of a recent post-secondary review process. The people of Central Alberta have waited 25 years for an answer regarding the future of Red Deer College, with the goal of ensuring the people of Red Deer and Central Alberta have equitable access to options in advanced education.

Red Deer College was expected to receive final approval for university status last spring, but the Provincial Government held back on the final decision until the Province’s system review of post-secondary institutions was complete. According to the Government of Alberta, the study was intended to assess how the post-secondary system was meeting current and future needs, review the governance structure, provide comparisons to other post-secondary systems and develop a vision for the future.

While there are some expressed concerns within our community about the change in direction from RDC becoming a university to RDC as a polytechnic institution, including Council’s own questions on behalf of Red Deerians expressed to the Government, ultimately I support a path forward that will protect RDC’s ability to stay true to its roots in trades, technology and the arts, with the ability to confer degrees for other academic pursuits and fields of study. RDC assures City Council that the polytechnic accomplishes these objectives.

Degree conferring status for RDC is one of, if not the most singular, strategic economic development and community building initiatives we can undertake. For our city and region to fulfill our potential, we need to not only retain our existing population, we need to become a competitive contender in keeping and attracting new population to our city. One of the most promising means of doing so is through the development of a skilled labour force, offering a broader spectrum of career options locally, and attracting population who will stay and strengthen our local economy through their future contributions in various sectors.

Most importantly, building advanced education capacity at RDC ensures students in Red Deer and the region have more equitable access to advanced education services closer to home instead of being forced to relocate to other communities at great financial expense, or even more concerning, not pursue post-secondary education at all as a result of financial or geographic barriers.

I’d like to thank the generations of RDC leadership, faculty, staff, students, Students’ Association representatives and our community for your steadfast resolve and your insistence that the people of Red Deer and Central Alberta have equitable access to options in advanced education.

On behalf of Council and community, congratulations to this year’s graduates – we are proud of your accomplishments and look forward to supporting you in your future endeavors. Today, we welcome the fact that Red Deer College can finally take a significant step towards its future, and we remain committed to supporting the College, and the interests of the students who will always be RDC’s most compelling imperative, during this transition and in the years to come.”

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Immigration increase alone won’t fix the labour market, experts say

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By Rosa Saba

Experts say Canada’s plan to increase immigration may ease some pressures in the labour market, but bigger changes are needed to ensure new permanent residents are matched with the jobs that most need filling.

With the unemployment rate at historic lows, many companies are “starved” for workers, and new immigrants will help fill some of the need, said Ravi Jain, principal at Jain Immigration Law and co-founder of the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association.

The federal government’s new immigration plan calls for the admission of 1.45 million more new permanent residents over the next three years, beginning with 465,000 in 2023 and reaching 500,000 in 2025. That’s compared with 341,000 in 2019.

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the plan is intended to help attract labour in key sectors, including healthcare, skilled trades, manufacturing and technology.

“It’s clear that there are real gaps, real demands, and real needs,” said Naomi Alboim, a senior policy fellow at Toronto Metropolitan University and a former Ontario Deputy Minister of Immigration.

But upping immigration levels is just one way to begin addressing those needs, she said — the government’s plan should be part of a wider initiative to address temporary workers, international students and a larger range of jobs.

Change is needed to ensure new Canadians are well-matched to jobs that maximize their skills, qualifications and experience, said Alboim.

Recent immigrants are less likely to see their skills and education utilized than Canadian-born workers, Statistics Canada said, and new and recent immigrants are overrepresented in certain industries, including transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and food services.

Government policies have created a mismatch between the specific skills employers are looking for and the skills of immigrants being approved, Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas said.

Some of this mismatch begins with international students, said Karas. Though many international students plan to become permanent residents after they graduate, many of them aren’t in programs for jobs that are in demand by immigration policies, like healthcare or trades, he said.

International students and temporary foreign workers (TFWs) have made up an increasingly large portion of Canada’s economic immigrants, or those selected for their contribution to the economy, who made up more than half of recent immigrants in 2021, Statistics Canada said.

In 2020, 67 per cent of the country’s principal applicants in the economic class were previously temporary foreign workers or international students, the agency said.

But that 67 per cent is a relatively small portion of all the temporary workers and international students in Canada, said Alboim. Canada had 777,000 TFW work permit holders in 2021, and almost 622,000 international students that year, Statistics Canada said.

Canada’s dependence on temporary workers to fill long-term gaps is a huge problem, said Alboim. It creates little incentive to improve wages, conditions or supports for temporary workers, she said.

Federal immigration policy seems laser-focused on jobs requiring higher levels of training and education, said Alboim, a barrier to permanent residency for many TFWs and international students.

That’s despite the fact that much of Canada’s labour shortage is in jobs that require lower levels of education or experience, jobs that many temporary workers and students take on, said Alboim.

The federal government should expand its scope to prioritize more of these kinds of jobs, she said.

“There are way, way, way more people here now with temporary status that will never be able to transition to permanent residency, assuming they want to, unless the rules for permanent residency are changed to recognize that we actually need them too,” she said.

However, not all the onus lies on the federal government, Jain said. One ongoing problem has been immigrants’ credentials not being recognized in Canada, and while there have been some recent changes aimed at improving that, more needs to be done, he said. These credentials are the jurisdiction of provinces and territories, not Ottawa.

Provincial and regional immigration programs often do a better job of bringing in workers who can meet a wide range of labour needs including in lower-skill jobs, Alboim said, noting those programs are set to increase under the federal government’s plan.

A legislative amendment recently gave the minister of immigration the power to select immigrants for Express Entry programs based on specific qualities like occupation, but currently Alboim anticipates that use of that power will be focused on higher-level jobs.

“(There are) real needs at the high end, which immigration should certainly be focused on, but not exclusively,” she said.

Jain agreed.

“My worry is that if the targeted draws get too heavy, like if it’s weighted too much in terms of the proportion of people coming in, then I worry that some of these other folks will get marginalized,” he said.

“There needs to be some kind of a balance.”

— With files from Lee Berthiaume

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2023.

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Alberta

Popular roller-coaster at West Edmonton Mall amusement park to be removed

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Canada’s largest shopping centre says a popular roller-coaster at its amusement park is being removed after nearly 40 years in operation.

West Edmonton Mall’s vice-president of parks and attractions says in a statement that while the Mindbender will be missed, the mall is excited to announce it is working on new plans for the site.

The Mindbender was known as the world’s tallest and longest indoor, triple-loop roller-coaster.

In 1986, three people were killed on the roller-coaster, which forced the mall to shut it down for a year for safety modifications.

Galaxyland initially opened in 1983, but was known as Fantasyland until 1995.

The indoor amusement park partnered with Hasbro in 2022 and features attractions licensed from the franchise.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.

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