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Bow Valley College: Building Future Skills

After months of consultation, the Ministry of Advanced Education has released its Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs report. The Ministry set out to review Alberta’s post-secondary system, seeking to develop an innovative new strategy that transforms higher education with a focus on quality education, skills, and training needed to get Albertans working again, meet labour market demands of the future, and drive innovation to make our province competitive in the global economy. 

After reviewing the goals and objectives set out in the Alberta 2030 report, Bow Valley College can say with confidence that it is poised to not only meet but exceed many of the expectations laid out by the Ministry. The recommendations build upon many of the innovative ideas our college has already implemented or is working towards; namely, our plans for micro-credentials, reskilling, and upskilling, Work Integrated Learning (WIL), the development of our virtual reality (VR) tool, which we plan on marketing for sale, and many more initiatives.

This plan intersects with Bow Valley College’s strategic priorities on many fronts. This alignment will allow us to implement many of the goals and objectives. The College is well-positioned to work towards achieving additional standards and goalposts outlined in the report. 


Our takeaway:

Ways in which Bow Valley College aligns with the proposed goals and initiatives:

Goal: Establish an agile program development process to ensure post-secondary intuitions can provide nimble, relevant, and effective learning opportunities, including micro-credentials.

  • Bow Valley College’s Research and Innovation team has been advocating for micro-credentialing and continues to lead on this front by developing a framework to offer micro-credentials in a meaningful way with industry input, guidance, and approval
  • Our School of Technology and Continuing Education are working towards offering micro-credentials. Our newly approved post-diploma in Cloud Computing is a package of X micro-credentials that can be taken independently or can be stacked to achieve the post-diploma
  • In relation to micro-credentials, Bow Valley College strategic priorities include the adoption of a Competency-Based Education model in suitable programming. We are a leader on this front
  • We are ready to offer CBE in Winter 2022 through two post-diploma certificates in Data Management Analytics (DMA) and the aforementioned Cloud Computing. This is a first for Alberta
  • We are working with industry to develop competency assessments to give experienced individuals credit for the knowledge they have while helping them to fill gaps in skills they are lacking
  • If learners register in a post-diploma program, under our new Competency-Based Education model, they will receive a post-diploma certificate. If learners take the non-credit courses such as micro-credentials (MC), they will receive a micro-credential. Bow Valley College MCs are issued using a secure digital representation hosted by Credly. This ensures that learners can share credentials freely and potential employers can easily view the skills and tasks that credential holders have demonstrated.
  • At the completion of all the micro-credentials, learners can register and complete a capstone project and receive the post-diploma.
  • Pivot-Ed, a Bow Valley College venture, is developing a digital platform which will leverage the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to allow people to demonstrate their competencies by taking assessments based on work-based scenarios and earn micro-credentials

Objective: Develop a provincial framework to guide the development of micro-credentials

  • Bow Valley College is in full support of a framework that would guide the development of micro-credentials
  • We look forward to working collaboratively with our post-secondary partners to establish standardized micro-credentials which are accepted by businesses and are stackable towards a diploma or degree


Goal: Become the first province in Canada to offer access to work-integrated learning to 100 per cent of students

  • Bow Valley College is a strong advocate for integrating real-life work experience and learning
  • Bow Valley College recognizes that WIL increases the likelihood of our graduates landing a job, and the return on investment (ROI) will be tremendous with highly trained and job-ready candidates available on day one of their employment
  • Bow Valley College is ready to roll out its WIL strategy, including its participation in apprenticeship pilots programs

Objective: Expand apprenticeships in careers of the future

  • Bow Valley College is continually assessing its programming and adjusting to meet labour market demands and needs
  • Our School of Technology is set to double its offerings by Fall 2022
  • We will open our new Bow Valley College Centre for Entertainment Arts in Winter 2022, with tremendous buy-in and interest from the post-production industry in Calgary to nurture our learners and provide opportunities for WIL and training


Goal: Build, fund, and establish policy to support apprenticeship-style programs in a wide range of occupations, including emerging high-tech trades

  • Bow Valley College strategic priorities align with the Government of Alberta’s Bill 67, the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Education Act
  • We are looking forward to collaborating with industry to set out criteria that trainees must meet
  • Our business, marketing, and tech programs are all strong candidates for the apprenticeship-style programs supported by the Government of Alberta through this Act

Objective: Develop strategies and approaches to measure employment-related skills in students

  • Bow Valley College will require students to go through CBE assessments that incorporate authentic learning where they will have to demonstrate competencies in real-world, on-the-job skills
  • Pivot-Ed, a Bow Valley College venture, is working with IBM to develop scalable AI assessments, which will be offered to clients through an online platform. These assessments will be developed in concert with industry partners. They will measure which employment-related skills clients are already proficient in and help bridge any gaps
  • For over 20 years, Bow Valley College has actively led and engaged in national applied research initiatives within the fields of literacy and essential skill evaluation and training. The College’s proprietary innovative essential skills assessment tool (TOWES) and skills training curriculum have demonstrated effectiveness in evaluating and supporting skills acquisition. The Test of Workplace Essential Skills (TOWES) is a Bow Valley College business venture, demonstrating the successful commercialization of applied research. With partnerships across Canada, and over 160K TOWES assessments written to date, our mission is to provide learners, jobseekers, workers and employers with the assessment and training of critical skills needed to for success in the Canadian labour market.


Goal: Support institutions to become the go-to providers of employer-paid upskilling programs

  • Bow Valley College will actively promote its new Competency-Based Education offerings as an option for companies who want to upskill their employees in areas of growth such as Cloud Computing and Data Management Analytics (DMA)
  • Pivot-Ed, a Bow Valley College venture, is close to launching with an eye toward signing up employers as clients, offering their employees scalable Artificial Intelligence (AI) assessments to support their reskilling and upskilling

Objective: Reduce the skills gap by fostering the strongest employer, industry and post-secondary partnership environment in Canada

  • Bow Valley College is already establishing key relationships with industry partners to develop scalable assessments, Competency-Based Education assessments, and standards and is working with stakeholders in the industry to promote a broad acceptance of micro-credentials
  • As a member of the AI Pathways Partnership (AIPP), programs will begin in 2021 and will include technical, business, and professional interpersonal skills — competencies that have been identified as being crucial for success by employers and industry organizations. This consortium is in collaboration with Amii and made possible through funding provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada
  • Bow Valley College will continue to strengthen relationships between employers and post-secondary institutions to help guide educational programming and work placement opportunities

Objective: Strengthen the role of post-secondary institutions in the reskilling and upskilling of our workforce

  • Bow Valley College is a strong advocate of offering high-quality education, and introducing new programs to reskill and upskill our workforce quickly while also giving people credit for the experience and training they already have
  • Our suite of post-diploma certificates, CBE programs, and plans for micro-credentialing put us in a strong position to meet this goal, reskilling and upskilling efficiently, and with flexibility – recognizing not everyone is able to return to school for a two- or four-year diploma or degree


Goal: Strengthen research and innovation planning, and work across entities to align provincial contributions for post-secondary research to promote commercialization to meet economic diversification priorities

  • Bow Valley College is endeavouring to become more entrepreneurial by seeking additional sources of revenue with a goal to move away from total reliance on government funding and generous support of our donors
  • We have developed a Virtual Reality (VR) assessment tool – along with ICOM Productions – which allows our Practical Nursing students to use a virtual stethoscope to replicate what it will be like dealing with patients in the real world. Other post-secondary institutions and those in the health care profession are taking notice and are potentially interested in acquiring the technology. This has also generated funding from the likes of Alberta Innovates
  • Pivot-Ed, a Bow Valley College venture, will catalyze an innovative, sustainable business model by creating a technologically advanced learning platform that serves as an online marketplace for job seekers, employers, and content providers. Pivot-Ed will sell its services to clients, including individuals and employers. This initiative received a funding grant from the Future Skills Centre of Canada
  • Bow Valley College secured a contract to work with the Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC) in Ontario on a digital certification program to offer micro-credentialing. Hospitality and food service workers in that province will be able to leverage and build their skills portfolio through this program
  • We are searching for other revenue diversification opportunities through our applied research team. Their efforts secured several grants and helped to secure our College a spot as one of Canada’s top research colleges
  • Bow Valley College is proud to have been ranked No. 44 for the fiscal year 2019 in the large institution category in the annual Research Infosource rankings. The College also ranks No. 2 in the country for growth over the previous year, with Bow Valley College’s research income increasing by 522 per cent
  • Bow Valley College is implementing a new SIS and introducing a modernization of related systems

Objective: Enable institutions to compete for and grow non-provincial sources of funding, while preserving access for all Albertans

  • Bow Valley College is doing so through its VR assessment tool. It is looking to market the platform, and is developing other applications to make it more marketable
  • Pivot-Ed is being built as a revenue generating opportunity as a sustainable business and online job marketplace
  • We will continue to support governance and financial sustainability for the system
  • We continue to showcase our entrepreneurial successes and seek new sources of revenue
  • We should include here the federal grants that fund activities in Global Access


Goal: Improve the transfer system and foster flexible career and education pathways

  • Bow Valley College is proud to be part of the AI Pathways Partnership (AIPP) — a consortium of post-secondaries from across Alberta coming together to advance artificial intelligence and machine learning, cultivate excellence, and provide opportunities for Albertans to thrive in the global digital economy
  • Bow Valley College has several ELL and academic program pathways, post-diploma certificate programs, continuing education, and transfer credit options
  • We will continue to increase the level of collaboration between our peer institutions, giving students more options to transfer credit


Goal: Prioritize the expansion of digital infrastructure and support distance education to reach students where they are

  • Recognizing the need and desire for more distance learning due to the pandemic, Bow Valley College is building modern classrooms with a plan to offer flexible, hybrid learning. This innovative delivery will give our students options and will be desirable to many who wish to continue with some aspect of online learning
  • Our adoption of Microsoft Teams proved to be a big success with students locally, regionally, and internationally navigating the switch at the start of the pandemic
  • We have been using Microsoft Teams with a cohort of students in our Practical Nursing program for several years now
  • Our regional campuses have adapted new ways of teaching and learning remotely
  • Our new CBE programming will be flexible with online learning for students taking the post-diploma certificates in Cloud Computing and Data Management Analytics (DMA)


Goal: Develop targeted strategies to strengthen the inclusion of Indigenous learners

  • Bow Valley College is committed to supporting Indigenous Peoples and communities. As part of this commitment, in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, the College is developing and implementing a college-wide Indigenization Strategy to help guide its journey in reconciliation
  • The College’s new academic quality assurance Annual Scorecard includes Indigenization and decolonization as a qualitative metric
  • Two continuous employee positions were included in the College employee complement. One position will help with the College’s ongoing efforts concerning the Indigenization and de-colonizing of the curriculum. The other position will work with Indigenous communities to support economic development through education and training programming


Goal: Improve support for foundational learning and create integrated pathways for learners

  • Our School of Global Access and School of Health and Wellness are working collaboratively to prepare a curriculum for the government-supported English Language Learners pathway to Health Care Aide certificate
  • A $2.1 million funding grant from Employment and Social Development Canada’s Office of Literacy and Essential Skills is among the research income awarded to Bow Valley College. The project will improve reading and document use skills, which will improve success rates in apprenticeship training


Goal: Attract and nurture world-class faculty and students

  • Inline with our vision to shape the future of college education and to put our learners first, we always strive to attract world-class faculty and staff


Goal: Develop an Education in Alberta brand and promotional materials to demonstrate top reasons to study in Alberta and increase visibility of Alberta’s international education offerings

  • We historically collaborate with other colleges and universities and are equipped to implement this goal


Goal: Implement an international marketing strategy including signature international education events and Team Alberta missions to priority markets that have growth potential for international student mobility and align with Alberta’s economic priorities

  • Bow Valley College has an International Strategy that we will be able to revise and accelerate to implement and achieve this goal
  • Bow Valley College is working with several reputable recruitment organizations to attract international students
  • Bow Valley College offers and is developing programs that have seamless pathways for international students (ie. the work we are doing with Chitkara University in India). Graduates from any stream within the University’s Faculty of Healthcare now have the option to transfer to Bow Valley College’s Health & Human Services Management (HHSM) post-diploma certificate program
  • Bow Valley College International Education team, along with our School of Foundational Learning and Global Access, secured an agreement to deliver online English Language Learning to students in China

Objective: Attract talented international students to Alberta’s post-secondary institutions and communities

  • Our Chiu School of Business and School of Technology continue to be big draws for international students
  • Our new Bow Valley College Centre for Entertainment Arts is expected to attract international students who are searching for educational opportunities in creative fields
  • This supports our strategic enrolment management (SEM) recruitment efforts
  • Our expansion of our tech courses will attract more international students


Goal: Enable tuition flexibility, within defined guardrails and for select programs, to allow institutions to set tuition levels and increase need-based financial aid to ensure that tuition increases do not decrease access for Albertans

  • As Alberta’s largest comprehensive community college, access for all Albertans is one of our primary goals
  • Our Fund Development and Endowment team is consistently working to secure new donors and financial support for our students
  • We will continue to look for ways to increase access to post-secondary education and encourage a wider range of potential learners to participate


Goal: Implement a performance-based funding model for provincial post-secondary operational funding

  • Bow Valley College is prepared to work with the Ministry on the model it develops. We feel confident that we will meet – if not exceed – many of the goalposts that are being suggested


Goal: Explore the current composition of boards of governors so that government no longer appoints a majority of the members at certain institutions, and lengthen board tenure to minimize turnover

  • Bow Valley College is in support of this, should our College be designated as one of the institutions to implement this change
  • We believe less turnover and more consistency is positive
  • More autonomy will bode well for the College. Regardless, we have excellent working relationships with the ministry appointees


Final note

Overall, Bow Valley College is proud of its strong record of accomplishment and of success in the key highlighted areas of importance in Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs. The review supports our strategic enrolment management (SEM).


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