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
• 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.
2
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
3
Project principles
1.
Focus on 4 targeted audiences: camp workers,
northern and rural residents, aboriginals
-
2.
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
3.
Request that communities contribute access, time,
expertise, and material support
4
What is distance education?
Same time
synchronous
Same Place
Different time
asynchronous
1
2
3
4
Site-bound
Different Place
Site-independent
5
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.
6
Horizon site facts
• Located 70 Km
north of Fort
McMurray
• Construction
commenced 2001
• Production projected
for August 2008
• Will use open pit
mining
7
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)
8
Challenges for construction industry
in 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.
9
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
10
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
11
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
12
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?
13
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
14
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)
15
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)
16
For more information …
• Website: http://www.athabascau.ca/lc/
• Email: [email protected]
17
Thank you for your interest
• Pat Fahy ([email protected])
– 866-514-6234
• Nancy Steel ([email protected])
– 866-569-8051
18
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