This fall, the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) will officially become a polytechnic. President and CEO Larry Rosia answers questions about the latest milestone in the institution’s evolution.
What inspired SIAST’s transformation to a polytechnic?
Our focus on applied learning and research provides our students with marketable skills that prepare them to contribute from day one on the job, and polytechnics are really about that kind of hands-on learning.
When we did surveys, we learned that people understood us to be a trade school and a nursing school. We’re very proud of our nursing and trades activities, but we offer more than 170 programs in fields ranging from business to engineering technology to natural resources. This will help increase their profile in the province.
As a polytechnic, we will offer the full breadth of credentials, including certificates, diplomas, apprenticeships training and degrees.
Applied research has been a primary focus for SIAST in recent years – will this change with the institution’s new identify?
Applied research is a key differentiator for polytechnics, and it has certainly been gaining momentum at SIAST. Last year, we secured almost $1-million in applied research funding – a tenfold increase over our research funding five years ago.
We partner with small and medium-size enterprises in the province to seek solutions to practical problems, and to test and pursue innovations that enable them to capture new opportunities. For example, we’ve recently completed a barley-sorting project with a small agricultural machinery technology development company, we are working with another in 3D muscle-movement imaging and have recently engaged in building efficiency projects.
Our applied research partnerships allow employers and industry clients to benefit from our faculty expertise and ability to apply for research grants. At the same time, applied research provides our students with opportunities to hone their critical-thinking skills in preparation for the demanding roles of today’s workplaces.
What are the primary benefits of a polytechnic education for students?
Benefits include the depth and breadth of programming we offer, applied research with opportunities to engage in solving real-world problems, and the internationalization of our organization, because we operate in a global marketplace. We have international students here, and some of our programs are offered abroad.
Finally, everything we do is based on industry demand.
Technical education has never been in higher demand. We’re able to offer students relevant learning opportunities because of the close relationships that we have with employers, who provide us with advice, guidance and funding. These relationships are really central to our success. We often say that we’re industry-driven and student-focused, which contributes to our high graduate employment rate and the high satisfaction ratings we get from employers who hire our graduates.