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Heather Magotiaux, SAIT’s vice president, External Relations

Heather Magotiaux, SAIT’s vice president, External Relations.
(Supplied by Wil Andruschak, Postmedia Content Works)

Sponsored by Calgary Economic Development

While SAIT has long been a leader in industry-relevant education, the polytechnic has never been one to go it alone.

Strategic, committed, mutually beneficial partnerships have helped the school build its reputation, campus and national presence over the past century.

“The first priority for us is and always has been looking at what will benefit students,” says Heather  Magotiaux, SAIT vice president, External Relations.

“We need to make sure we are meeting their needs in terms of providing work-integrated learning and  access to networks that will help them find work in their field where they can make meaningful contributions.”

Business, government and community partnerships have been instrumental along the way, she says.

There are many ways to partner with SAIT,  Magotiaux says. One way, for example, is through its  collaborative work in applied research.

Last spring, SAIT was a gold recipient of a  Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) award for partnerships created and fostered through Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS).

The partnerships benefit 250 small- to medium-sized enterprises each year, including large companies, government organizations, industry associations and others locally, provincially and throughout Western Canada.

SAIT’s ARIS team works with more than 200 students every year, providing them with relevant education, industry experience and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Initiatives and programs like this have helped the school graduate students who are real-world ready and highly employable in their fields.

A recent study found that of SAIT’s employed 2016 graduates, 87 per cent were working in training-related positions. Of those grads working outside their field of study, about 20 per cent were also enrolled as a student,  demonstrating a desire to keep learning and growing.

The school’s leaders share that desire to keep learning and looking forward. That’s why virtually all of SAIT’s programs rely on industry  advisory councils that help keep the post-secondary school’s programming  relevant.

“Our advisory partners provide us with access to real-time, insider information on what is happening in any particular industry today and what the needs will be in the future to help us to make decisions quickly and confidently,” says Magotiaux.

“As soon as we identify an emerging gap in an industry, we are able to find the best way to respond to meet that need,” says Magotiaux.

“I have spent many years in education and I have never worked with a school as flexible and responsive as SAIT.”

For example, she says when it was clear there was a demand within the culinary program to incorporate business skills, the school was able to create a program that would not only fit the bill, but would also provide students with the opportunity to challenge themselves under the tutelage of those who know the industry best.

The culinary entrepreneurship program’s Tastemarket, which is located downtown in a 9,000-square-foot open space, puts students in an environment where they are able to conduct market research and respond to actual challenges and opportunities.

The program is taught by SAIT’s faculty members, but students also receive professional mentorship from industry leaders.

“It is these kinds of opportunities that bring credibility to our programs and that ready our students for real-world positions,” says Magotiaux.

And sending skilled graduates who are equipped and confident into the world brings long-term benefits to SAIT as well.

“When our students benefit and build successful careers and businesses, they want to give back to us, and that in turn, allows us to provide state-of-the-art equipment, facilities and opportunities to the next generation of students,” explains Magotiaux.

“When alumni and friends give back by giving to SAIT, they are investing in the future talent in our city — benefitting all of us.”

This feature was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.

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