Post-Secondary Learning Priorities of Workers in an Oil Sands Camp in Northern Alberta
Fahy, Patrick J.
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This paper reports results to date of a three-year project by Athabasca University, intended to determine the education and training needs and interests of employees in a work camp in northern Alberta’s oil sands. (Future reports will address results of efforts to provide programming suiting the needs identified, and the uptake, satisfaction, completion rates, further requirements, and impacts on the careers of workers who become students as part of the project.) In initial project investigations, the areas of business, finance, and management (including interprovincial business certification for tradesmen), health and safety, and project management constituted 56% of inquiries by workers; also of interest to workers were courses in trades and engineering. Barriers to enrolment were found to be related both to the demands of the workplace and to the workers’ backgrounds and situations, including: long hours (with regular overtime, and often with long commutes to and from the worksite); work pressure (the site was in the final phases of construction); high mobility of employment, resulting in frequent relocations to new work camps; lack of information about the potential relation of training to promotion opportunities within and outside of the present employer; ignorance about open and distance learning in general, and misinformation about technology-based learning delivery in particular; and concerns about costs were among these.
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