New World. New Thinking: Making SAIT’s strategic plan
We’re embarking on a new course for the future — one that builds on our 100+ year history to reimagine the workforce of tomorrow.
Flashback to February 2019.
Among the thoughtful doodles, ink blotches and hurried handwriting there’s a gem of an idea. Actually, across the 70-plus giant Post-it Notes wallpapering the SAIT Trojans gymnasium, there are hundreds.
More than 400 faculty and staff are firing on all cylinders as they lend their thoughts to charting SAIT’s course for the future through 2025.
It’s the first of many strategic planning sessions to come. There will also be electronic methods for gathering neatly typed but equally inspiring comments, observations, directives, dreams.
SAIT is asking what’s next, and a diverse community of alumni, industry, employees and students is answering. It feels like change is coming.
Fast forward to today, and it feels like change is all there is.
Good thing SAIT’s first strategic plan of its second century is built on change.
“The world has changed. What better time to launch a new strategic plan that positions SAIT as a change agent, preparing people for the workforce of tomorrow with lasting impact on our community and our people.”
-Sonja Chamberlin, Dean, School of Health and Public Safety
A strategic plan is a blueprint, a recipe. Much like building a house or baking a cake, it needs the right parts or ingredients — it needs purpose, it needs people power. If you can start with a solid foundation, all the better.
When the engagement and consultation process kicked off last year, the core team behind the development of SAIT’s 2020-2025 plan knew there was an unprecedented opportunity to shape the future — to drive and champion change in a world that keeps spinning faster.
For the past five years, Calgary and Alberta have faced turbulent times of economic and political upheaval. In the mix, and guided by the previous strategic plan, Think Big: Think Applied Education, SAIT has been reimaging education through a lens of applied learning — essential skills for essential work through hands-on training.
With respect to the next five, new challenges and opportunities have continued to emerge: economic diversification, digital disruption, and the growing role of internationalization and entrepreneurs in our region, plus the changing post-secondary landscape, funding challenges and new trends in lifelong learning.
There was no coronavirus pandemic then. But the pace of change was already increasing, and with it, the need to think even bigger.
“Not only will SAIT prepare students to succeed in emerging careers but digital technology will change how, when and where SAIT delivers education.”
-Aidan Stevens, New Media Production and Design '18
Throughout the first half of 2019, SAIT’s strategic planning team collected 3,000 written comments, hosted 28 school and department sessions, analyzed about 1,200 survey responses, and welcomed 1,831 consultation session participants.
Input from industry, employees and alumni coalesced into a top-three list of external change drivers:
- Challenging local economic conditions
- Digital transformation across the economy
- Changing expectations of workplace skills (e.g. resiliency, human skills)
From the comments and ideas, a picture of SAIT in 2025 — built around a continued commitment to student success — came into focus:
- “We have no way to predict what technologies are going to be created and what new tasks will evolve from new technologies — we need to create a nimble and robust framework to respond.”
- “Diversity, inclusion and equity should be the foundational lens through which we operate.”
- “Leverage more online, mobile learning, targeting a new generation of students and their digital needs.”
- “Bridge technical programs with business, financial, management and essential skills.”
- “Be the leader in lifelong learning and continuing education in Alberta.”
Tech and digital dominated. Creativity also flowed: from a Rocky Mountain and downtown campus — even a mention of a campus on the Moon was overheard — to living classrooms, youth-style career exploration for adults and industry exchanges for employees.
Then, a plan took shape.
New world, new thinking required
“This plan is a clear roadmap for SAIT. It brings industry and individual learners closer to SAIT — and to the latest technologies needed for success in the digital economy.”
-Poul Overgaard, Director, Business Intelligence and Analytics
“SAIT’s foundation for more than 100 years has been to develop career-ready graduates,” says Scott Thon, Chair, SAIT’s Board of Governors. “Today, the pace of change affecting industry has greatly accelerated. Guided by the 2020-2025 strategic plan, SAIT has a renewed commitment to ensure that our graduates, whether they be starting a career or changing their career, have the next-generation skills industry needs to drive our economy.”
By early spring, COVID-19 had arrived, changing all aspects of daily life. Along with everything else, it delayed the release of the plan. In a letter to Albertans in June, SAIT President and CEO Dr. David Ross reaffirmed SAIT’s new course for the future:
“The world has changed. The way we operate our businesses, the way we teach and the way we learn have changed. The urgency and the importance of the digital technology transformation that was underway pre-pandemic have been heightened. Our recovery will depend on a pipeline of adaptable, digitally literate workers who are insatiably curious about what is possible. SAIT is ready for whatever the future holds.”
The plan publically launched Sept. 9, the same day as one of its flagship initiatives, the School for Advanced Digital Technology — at SAIT’s new downtown campus.
“Reevaluated against current circumstances, this is the right plan for our evolving world,” said Dr. Ross, at the launch event. “Skills for the future, learning for life, global perspective, industry driven — it’s right for the future ahead of us, and continues what I believe is this institution’s long history of adaptation, innovation and delivering job-ready graduates.”
As the story of our province is still being written, SAIT’s latest chapter is just starting to unfold. As they say, it’s amazing the difference a year can make. What about five…?
Learn more about our new course for the future #hereatsait — explore the four pillars of New World. New Thinking, along with SAIT’s commitment to excellence.