Seven campuses across Alberta support diverse programming in academic upgrading, business, environmental studies, culinary and hospitality, health and wellness, human services, arts, open studies, and trades. With the pandemic affecting post-secondary institutions across Canada, Portage College has found a way to not only survive but thrive, while never losing sight of the ultimate goal – the students and the communities in which they will prosper.
It all began in 1968 when the Alberta NewStart program launched in Lac La Biche as part of the federal government’s initiative to research basic adult education. Inclusive and Alberta-focused, programs at that time supported Indigenous learnings such as trapping and wild fur management, along with other programs like upgrading and oilfield management. In 1970, the research program stopped. A group of Indigenous students and community members protested with a 26 day sit-in. The protest was successful, and the government reignited the NewStart program. That is, until 1973.
Once the program ended again, the Alberta government took it over, expanded the programs offered, and opened more campuses. Steady growth and positive enrollment were the norm.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but for a post-secondary school that had already mastered every challenge that had come its way, the pandemic simply meant another opportunity, not a setback. Portage College adapted by moving all of its courses online.
Jaime Davies, Corporate Communications Manager, noted in a recent interview, “Surveyed the last two weeks of April, students indicated that considering the quick switch to online course delivery due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition was smooth, and, in most cases, the College kept them well informed. Most impressively, 92 per cent of students surveyed would recommend Portage College to others, even after the abrupt change of course delivery.”
Even parents of the students are impressed, with one saying, Portage “surpassed all of her expectations of a post-secondary institution,” and has “the best customer service she has ever encountered.”
It’s not just the students and parents who are impressed with Portage Collage’s agility and dedication to its students. The college, along with Vivo Team are pleased to be recognized with a Brandon Hall Group Bronze Award for excellence in learning in the Best Team Development Program category, and the 2020 Council of the Federation Literacy Award for its Community Adult Learning Program (CALP).
The Brandon Hall Group Excellence Awards are highly sought after as they provide validation of best practices in human capital management, something more important than ever during the pandemic.
The impact of the CALP program, which provides learning opportunities for adults in rural Alberta and in Indigenous communities, cannot be understated. As described by one CALP learner and residential school survivor, “I came to the CALP program in September 2019 to learn spelling for my logbooks. I am a truck driver and if you misspell in your logbook you get a fine. I wanted better spelling for my job. Today I am reading a lot better. I can read the newspaper and signs around town…I hope to be back in the classroom soon to learn more about reading and writing.”
The simple fact is, not every Albertan has had equal opportunity for education, which is sad in a province rich in opportunity and resources. Portage College has a long history of advocating and fighting for inclusive education for learners at all stages of their journey. These recent awards are two of many indicators that prove Portage College is making a difference in many people’s lives.
Davies concludes, “With all the uncertainty in the world, Portage has remained firm in our mission – to connect people with knowledge, skills and opportunities. We want to empower learners to transform and make a difference.”
Learn more at www.portagecollege.ca.
Here's a link to our Strategic Plan