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Learning communities in the oil sands, and in remote and rural Alberta. Patrick Fahy & Nancy Steel Athabasca University Alberta North Access Symposium 8 May, 2008 Keyano College Fort McMurray. Origin of the Learning Communities Project.

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learning communities in the oil sands and in remote and rural alberta

Learning communities in the oil sands, and in remote and rural Alberta.

Patrick Fahy & Nancy Steel

Athabasca University

Alberta North Access Symposium

8 May, 2008

Keyano College

Fort McMurray

origin of the learning communities project
Origin of the Learning Communities Project
  • Athabasca University model: open and distance university offerings on various “lines”
  • DE model: reduce barriers for remote, rural communities, camp residents, due to work, personal realities
  • Project funded by a donation from Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNQ), in-kind from AU.
    • Develop people, wants competitive advantage.
    • Do well while doing good.
project objectives
Project objectives
  • To transform the workplace and communities.
  • To address personal goals with respect to career change, advancement.
  • To find new ways of creating learning communities in rural and remote areas.
  • (For corporate sponsors): To address problems attracting and retaining skilled workforce
  • To identify and promote viable offerings from Alberta institutions
project principles
Project principles
  • Focus on 4 targeted audiences: camp workers, northern and rural residents, aboriginals
    • Initial focus on CNQ’s Horizon construction site workforce
  • Develop partnerships to provide access to range of target groups, based on ongoing assessment of needs, interests, and preferences

- Offerings must offer “distance” access

  • Request that communities contribute access, time, expertise, and material support
what is distance education
What is distance education?

Same time Different time

synchronousasynchronous

Same Place 1 2

Site-bound

Different Place 3 4

Site-independent

communities of present lcp interest
Communities of present LCP interest
  • Horizon site (mobile workers)
  • Wood Buffalo region (Fort Chipewyan and Fort McKay)
  • Cold Lake (town and CFB Cold Lake)
  • Three Hills
  • Wabasca
  • Fort St. John, B.C.
horizon site facts
Horizon site facts
  • Located 70 Km north of Fort McMurray
  • Construction commenced 2001
  • Production projected for August 2008
  • Will use open pit mining
horizon site by the numbers
Horizon site by the numbers

Total workers on site = 19,948

  • Construction contract workers = 18,844
  • CNQ employees = 1,104
  • Workers residing in lodges = 8, 250
  • Daily avg. workers on site = 8,353

(April 30, 2008)

challenges for construction industry in alberta at horizon site
Challenges for construction industryin Alberta & at Horizon site
  • Reliance on a mobile workforce
    • Expensive – the workforce comes from across Canada –Deer Lake, NFLD, by example
  • Retiring workforce
    • Contributes to skill shortages in construction industry – avg age of construction mobile workers in Alberta is over 45 years of age – contributes to skills shortage, especially experienced construction workers
  • Need for exceptionally high level of project management, especially in oil sands operations
    • LCP identified project management as a popular learning interest
  • Life-work balance difficult to achieve
    • Long shifts, physically demanding, work camp living (5 work camps), high security, family away

Alberta Employment and Immigration. (2007). A workforce strategy for Alberta’s construction industry.

lcp activities on site
LCP activities on site
  • Project “launches” at 5 camps
      • Set-up in lobby areas
      • Materials on hand, staff available to answer questions and take requests for detailed information
      • Researcher present to record nature of inquiries & requests
  • Speaker series
      • “Eating for Health”
      • “Life Balance”
  • MBA Sessions
      • The AU MBA program
findings learning preferences expressed
Findings: Learning preferences expressed
  • 36% Business, Finance & Management
      • MBA
      • Project Management
      • Business Administration, Accounting, and HR
  • 34 %Trades & Engineering
      • Blue Seal
      • Health & Safety
      • Red Seal
      • APEGGA courses or exam preparation
findings learning interests expressed
Findings: Learning interests expressed
  • Others:
      • Computer applications, including Microsoft Office
      • English as a Second Language
      • Languages – Spanish, Italian, French
      • Academic upgrading, or grade 12 equivalency
      • General interest: fitness, guitar, flight training, martial arts
responses to inquiries
Responses to inquiries
  • Inquiries collected at project launches and information booths, or by email, and forwarded to AU Advising for a timely response
  • Inquiries documented by Research Facilitator
  • Inquiries followed up by RF as quality assurance measure
    • Receive information sought? Any action taken? Further questions?
issues challenges
Issues & challenges
  • Communication on-site is complicated – no common link, many work group list serves
  • Organizing events time-consuming and complex – procedures and people constantly changing
  • Audience is shift / mobile workers; may be temporary foreign workers – education dedication may be low
  • Computer/internet access not always available to or used by all
  • Potential students often not familiar with, or actually skeptical about, distance education – we are investigating this
research products to date
Research products to date
  • Seven Occasional Reports
  • Interim Report 1
  • Literature annotations
  • Paper submitted to peer reviewed journal

“Post-Secondary Learning Priorities of Workers in an Oil Sands Camp in Northern Alberta” (In review)

  • Baseline study

“Programming Available and Requested in Remote Areas of Alberta” (In progress)

next steps
Next steps
  • Continue regular information and speaker sessions at the Horizon site
      • Population will soon change once into production
  • Intensify research into learning interests in other identified communities outside the oil sands
  • Continue Occasional Reports (formative evaluation)
  • Continue to produce papers for peer-reviewed journals (dissemination)
  • Continue to evaluate project operations (1 more interim report, final report at project end)
for more information
For more information …
thank you for your interest
Thank you for your interest
ad