“I am a great believer in the connection between polytechnic education and prosperity.”
Polytechnic education holds the key to prosperity as institutions like NAIT equip graduates and Alberta’s industry with the skills, talent and innovation needed for success, says NAIT’s new president and CEO.
“NAIT is making a difference because we know polytechnic education is the key to a better future,” said Laura Jo Gunter in a welcome address to NAIT and the wider community during a virtual installation ceremony on Feb. 1.
“We have the courage to be agile and creative so that we can continue to meet the ever-changing needs for skills and talent.”
A virtual welcome to NAIT
Gunter was appointed NAIT’s seventh president and CEO effective Aug. 24, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t possible to hold an in-person installation ceremony – a tradition of post-secondary institutions to welcome presidents to their communities.
Instead, NAIT held a virtual celebration with greetings from Lt-Gov. Salma Lakhani, Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, and staff and student leaders.
The installation was also an opportunity for Gunter to share her vision for the polytechnic, which she notes has grown considerably since its opening in 1962 as a “trades school.”
“In those roots , which embody experiential education, rigour and pragmatic innovation, I see our present and our future,” she said.
Skills and talent for the future
NAIT has expanded from apprenticeship training to certificates, diplomas and degrees in business, health and applied science and technology. More recently, the polytechnic has expanded online and blended academic delivery to provide greater flexibility to students.
Continuing education and microcredientials will help address a skills gap “so that job-seekers can make their skills and knowledge more apparent and employers can make better hiring decisions.”
“We deliver post-secondary education that is engaging and experiential.”
Investments in technology and tools such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and simulation will enhance student learning and services, Gunter added.
“Because of who we are, we deliver post-secondary education that is engaging and experiential, and that allows graduates to be productive on their first day of work.”
Diverse and inclusive campuses
As NAIT grows, it will continue to evolve with a future that’s “diverse and inclusive.” Gunter announced the launch of a new equity, diversity and inclusion strategy to solidify the institute’s commitment to “fostering safe, welcoming spaces for all people.”
“It also ensures that our graduates recognize the global significance of equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”
Partners with industry
In addition to educating talented students, Gunter said NAIT will continue to grow as a “trusted partner for economic growth.” This means expanding its capacity in applied research – particularly in the areas of energy, the environment and sustainable development.
“We support our industry partners with a sharp focus on pragmatic innovation that takes ideas through to implementation, whether that means scaling up or commercialization.”
“NAIT gets things done – and we make a difference.”
Just like the polytechnic’s alumni – a community of 200,000 strong, 80% of whom live in Alberta – “NAIT gets things done,” she added, “and we make a difference.”
Gunter came to NAIT after three years as president and CEO of Bow Valley College in Calgary. She also held senior executive roles at George Brown College and Seneca College in Toronto.
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