SIAST expansion needed to keep up with demand: SIAST Kelsey campus considers $225-million expansion in Saskatoon

Reported by Karin Yeske, NewsTalk 650 CKOM August 28, 2013 -  SIAST Kelsey campus is considering a $225-million expansion to keep up with the demand for their programs and graduates.

With eight locations across the Saskatoon, the potential expansion would bring all of them together at a central hub.

“The facilities we do have, some of them need some renovation. We also need to upgrade the facilities to be more in line with today’s contemporary learning environment,” Larry Rosia, president and CEO of SIAST, said.

An expansion is one solution. The cost estimates and concept are in the preliminary stages, but Rosia said the most logical location would be their existing main campus location on Idylwyld Drive.

“There is room on there to construct a new building and a new facility. We’ve looked at that and there is space to do that. We would probably use that space if we were to stay on the Kelsey campus to create maybe a four-storey building to fit on the existing campus,” he said, adding the programming for the that new facility is still being worked through. It would include new contemporary learning spaces – flexible classrooms and student study areas.

He said SIAST is open to suggestions and not opposed to a new location altogether. A partnership or P3 would be an option to finance the expansion.

In the last five years, SIAST’s enrollment across the province has increased by 23 per cent. The demand is there across Saskatchewan but Rosia said there is an acute need at the Kelsey campus, which represents about 40 per cent of SIAST’s student population.

The demand from the labour market, in some cases, far exceeds what SIAST can provide in graduates. SIAST’s employment rate is 93 per cent.

“Some of our programs, we’re turning away two or three qualified applicants for every applicant that we take into the program,” Rosia said.Some of those students are added to a waitlist.

There is an especially high demand for SIAST’s apprenticeship and nursing program, according to Anne Neufeld, president of strategy management at SIAST. The labour market is growing in sectors including construction, mining, manufacturing and energy, she said.

For example, there were seven positions available for every SIAST graduate of the geomatics program.

"A number of our programs, believe it or not, more than one employer offered to hire the entire class. It's pretty exciting when an employer comes and basically makes a job offer to the entire class. That actually happened with computer electronic technicians and our electronics program at the Wascana SIAST campus,” Neufeld said, adding keeping up with the demand has been one of SIAST’s greatest challenges.

“But it is a very positive challenge.”

The Kelsey campus no longer has the right training spaces, according to Rosia.

He said the SIAST renewal plan includes a trade and technology centre on the existing campus. They would create a motive power centre and reconfigure some existing facilities such as the mining engineering technology building. There would be an affordable housing and daycare option as well.

The potential expansion would consolidate the eight locations across the city which would, according to Rosia, be a better learning environment for the students.

SIAST graduates are fueling Saskatchewan’s economy, with 88 per cent of them staying and working in the province.

The students are all ages, from fresh high school graduates to mature students. The average age of a SIAST student is between 25 and 30 years old.

Neufeld said SIAST is looking at expanded training days, especially for mature learners who are looking for options and flexibility. SIAST is also trying to cater to people who want to learn online by looking at live streaming of educational programming.

"In some cases, to keep up with demand, we've had to lease space off campus just to make sure we can put the programming in,” Neufeld said.

There are over 150 programs offered at SIAST, many of which are two years in length.

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