SAIT Polytechnic is adding nearly 1,200 student spaces in the fall, the largest enrolment increase in the school's history.

The provincial government is funding the expansion through a special grant aimed at getting more people trained in trades to ease the critical shortage of skilled workers in Alberta.

"We're looking at areas like millwright and electrician and apprenticeship, and areas like construction project management," said Elka Walsh, SAIT's director of institutional planning and analysis.

"This is one for the history books for SAIT. This kind of increase is the sort of thing that's going to make this campus a buzzing and happening place."

More than 13,500 full-time students were enrolled at SAIT last year, so the new openings represent an 8.4 per cent increase. That steady growth is expected to continue over the next several years.

"Alberta is facing a labour market shortage and a skills shortage, particularly in construction and oil and gas," Walsh said. "That's why we see this investment from the government." 

'This kind of increase is the sort of thing that's going to make this campus a buzzing and happening place.'- Elka Walsh, director of institutional planning and analysis

Students said Tuesday they weren't surprised by the move.

"[SAIT] is a lot more focused than just getting a standard degree, and it sets you up for getting into the profession that you want," said John Brace, who is studying nuclear medicine.

"It's a really good school," added Logan While, who is in the millwright apprentice program. "Other people in the trades say SAIT has one of the better programs out there."
 
SAIT is currently accepting applications for the fall semester.