Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Medicine Hat College and Prairie Rose Public Schools have partnered together to offer students the chance to broaden their horizons with short, specialized courses known as micro-credentials.
The program was originally planned by the college, and has been in the works for about a year, said Timothy Spielman, Dean for the School of Business and Continuing Studies.
“The whole concept of microcredentials has sort of just come into its own as of late. The provincial government has sort of taken a real interest in what I refer to as competency on demand,” said Spielman. “So these small, nimble, very focused types of credentials, which a micro-credential is usually a course or two, or several segments of a course, that are put together and lead to sort of a badge at the end, which is micro-credential badge, right. And really, what it’s done, it’s done to sort of prove people have competency, but in a very targeted way, if you think about a two year diploma, or a four year degree, you know, there’s there’s anywhere from, you know, sort of 20,40, even 50 courses sort of involved in those type of things, sort of a two to four year commitment, a micro-credential can be done in a couple of months. And so having these very focused, targeted micro-credentials, is really great if somebody is missing a piece, or they need a piece to get a job or to move up in their job. And they don’t need to go back and take everything, but they need this missing piece. And so that’s really, micro credentials are a fantastic way to prove that somebody’s got that missing piece, or added that to their skill set.”
When the micro-credentials were announced, Prairie Rose was quick to reach out and partner with them, said superintendent Dr. Reagan Weeks. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Advanced Pilot Training micro-credential has been incorporated into the training available for students in the Dave Rozdeba Flight Academy, as well as at Foremost School in partnership with the Foremost UAS Testing Range. Permaculture Design and rainwater harvesting credentials are likely to be incorporated into the many agricultural sch
“It’s an exciting opportunity for students to test the waters and learn in a different way. And we think there is value in connecting high school students to post secondary opportunities, both to increase their prospects on the job market, and to have a chance to engage with competence in education beyond high school years,” said Weeks. “And so every time we can do this, we just better prepare them for the future. And of course, with our Flight Academy, and the training center in Foremost, we are able to take advantage of existing programming and enhance it to make it that much better and more meaningful.”
The programs, which include Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Advanced Pilot Training, tourism and hospitality management, permaculture design, and rainwater harvesting. The courses were selected based on skills needed in the community, and what would help students the most when seeking out employment after completing the credential, said Spielman.
“Drones, there’s demand for it, and there’s insufficient supply of qualified operators and hospitality, tourism, shortage of individuals and, you know, we chatted with the agricultural community and you know, there’s this need,” said Spielman. “Even had conversations with the city of Medicine Hat and water is scarce. And if we can use it more effectively, that saves costs. And it just makes us more sustainable in the long run. So that’s what we did, went out to industry and had some conversations with them. What is important and, you know, what, what, aren’t you finding people have the skill set? Okay, well, let’s put these forward to the government who had a call for these and say, here’s the areas that are the most important thing in our region. And the government said great, proceed.”
The partnership with Prairie Rose also works to help high school students in their transition to post secondary, said Spielman, a time he acknowledges can be intimidating.
“High schools are part of our environment. These students can choose to come to Medicine Hat College for additional education, they can choose to go directly into a job. How can we help them be more prepared for job opportunities? Right. So when we started discussing this with Prairie Rose, we want students to have these opportunities, and we said, well here’s an opportunity we have that could fit into what you’re looking for with the micro-credentials. And so it seemed a bit like a great match at first conversation.”
“The thing is, college can seem scary. You graduated high school, and it can just seem scary. And I know that there’s, there’s lots of rigor in the college and university system. But, you know, learners grow, and they become great students and have this fun, but sometimes that fear factor, that unknown, causes some people to hesitate,” said Spielman. “So the ability to partner with them and sort of show them what a competency based credential is, which diplomas are just bigger and longer competency based credentials, right? These smaller ones that allow them to see, that sort of gives them a glimpse into the post secondary world as well. And they can go wow, maybe it’s not quite as scary as we thought, right? Maybe, maybe it is for me.”