Meeting with the Minister of Advanced Education
On September 14th, member of ACIFA’s Presidents’ Council and Executive Committee met with Minister Nicolaides to ask some wide-ranging questions.
The meeting began with the Minister being asked about Alberta Industry Training and provincial exams now that a new board has been established and there are no longer COVID-related government restrictions.
Minister Nicolaides said the short answer is, it is still to be determined. No decision has been made as of yet as to whether provincial exams will continue or not. They will be extending the pause on these exams for the year.
The faculty-appointed board members on the Boards of Governors at the institutions are excluded from the in-camera portions of those Board meetings. Outside of collective bargaining, we find the practice discriminatory and not, in fairness, transparent.
Minister Nicolaides said that he has not heard about this. He agreed that it is concerning and he doesn’t know what the rationale would be. He said that he would be happy to look into it more and get a sense of where this is happening, and then he could connect with the Board Chairs and get an understanding from them as to why this is happening.
When Board Chair selection not involving faculty Board-member input was mentioned, Minister Nicolaides said that the Post-Secondary Learning Act (PSLA) does not detail any specific way as to how a Board Chair is to be selected. The only thing that the act says, is that the Board Chair is directly appointed by the Minister.
When it comes to how the faculty representative is selected, he said that he’s heard that some recommendations [for appointment] have been elected by membership, and some have just been appointed by the faculty association directly. There is no consistent process there.
It was reported to the Minister that there a misunderstanding at one institution as to how they arrive at the Board, and who they are as a Board member. They are an internal board member, but they don’t have the right to sit on Finance or HR Committees. This is problematic as they are not able to exercise their full fiduciary responsibility, adding that this includes not receiving the budget in the same way as other members on the Board receive the budget.
Minister Nicolaides agreed and said that they are full members of the Board, and there is nothing in legislation that says that the faculty representative can not be on the Finance or HR Committees. He said that he will talk to the Board Chairs and see where this is coming from and why this is happening. He brought up the idea of asking the ethics commissioner to give us a view as to if these are actual conflicts and maybe give us some guidance from an ethics and conflict standpoint. He will ask his team to do some preliminary homework as well as ask officials in the Ministry of Advanced Education to let him know what their professional views are.
The Minister was asked about the plans for the new apprentice style training for the advanced school of technology at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and had there been any movement on getting the credential recognized outside of Alberta
Minister Nicolaides said they have not done a lot of work at this stage to ensure recognition of those credentials outside of Alberta. He anticipates and imagines that if they are recognized under the Alberta credential framework that that would carry weight against other provinces. With respect to expansion of apprenticeship, he thinks this is an area where we could continue to accelerate things. For new apprenticeship style programs, there needs to be employer recognition, and curricula still need to be written.
Give the United Kingdom's day of mourning over the Sovereign's passing, does the Minister have any idea as to what Monday the 19th has to bring?
Minister Nicolaides said that it was just announced that it will not be a statutory holiday. It’s being identified as a day of mourning. Employers are encouraged to provide flexibility.
In regards to the Premier’s task force, the Minister was asked why the only post-secondary institution representative on the council is from a private college when the vast majority of our students and learners are coming from public post-secondary institutions?
Minister Nicolaides said that one of the members of the committee is a former president of NAIT. Subsequent to his time at NAIT, he was president at Grand Prairie Community College. There was a voice there through Dr. Feltham. The intent is for the group to operate as an industry-based advisory council to create a vehicle for industry groups, representatives, and employers to engage regularly with the Premier about the skill needs in their respective industries and sectors of economy.
The meeting was scheduled to last 30 minutes. The Minister granted us 40 minutes.