Portage College faces layoffs and program cuts after provincial funding reductions

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Portage College faces layoffs and program cuts in response to provincial budget cuts earlier this year.

The post-secondary institute is suspending the Heavy Equipment Operator, Pre-Employment Heavy Equipment Technician and Accounting Technician programs this fall.

Guy Gervais, Portage’s academic vice president said the decision to suspend programs was not taken lightly.

“It is always a regrettable position for the college to reduce programs,” he said in an Apr. 27 news release. “However, we are no longer able to financially support the HEO and HET programs in their current state.”

The program cuts mean that the equivalent of 2.5 jobs will be cut. Another 4.7 vacant positions were eliminated and the equivalent of 3.6 employees in the service department has been declared redundant.

“These are tough times for the College,” said Nancy Broadbent, president and chief executive officer of Portage College. “Releasing people from their jobs is a difficult decision. This has a very emotional impact on the individuals let go and the staff who remain.”

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The College is working with industry and other stakeholders to pursue new models to offer the HEO training again in the future.

Gervais said the college needs to find a way to reduce the costs per full load equivalent student enrolment so that the HEO program can be financially sustainable.

“We need to incorporate work-integrated learning opportunities in the program to improve employability of the students,” he said.

The college has no plans to restart the HET program, which requires significant investment in facilities and equipment.

In the future, if demand exists for HET, Portage will pursue a partnership with another post-secondary to offer the program as a way to keep costs down,” said Gervais.

This fall, Portage’s Alberta grant will be reduced by 4.2 per cent. It is the third year in a row the college’s provincial funding has been cut. Since 2019, Portage’s budget has been reduced by $2 million.

Portage will be facing a further cut of $808,969 in the fall of 2022, so the school must lower its overall cost per full course load equivalent or risk losing further grant money due to performance metrics coming in 2023.

The college currently has austerity measures in place to keep travel, supply and capital spending to a minimum.

Annual salary increases for faculty and to staff belonging to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees will continue as per current collective agreements but management salaries are frozen.

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