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NAIT plans to reduce staffing by up to 240 jobs

NAIT plans to reduce staff numbers by between 190 and 240 positions this year, in part by offering a voluntary departure program for employees, a spokesperson said on Monday.

Funding cuts from province mean 'difficult decisions' to reduce spending

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, NAIT, in Edmonton, Alberta, during August 2019. (Codie McLachlan/CBC) (Codie McLachlan)

Cutting hundreds of jobs from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology could lead to larger class sizes and fewer services for students, say employee and student representatives.

A 6.8 per cent funding cut from the provincial government is prompting NAIT to eliminate between 190 and 240 jobs, an institute spokesman said on Monday.

Through a combination of voluntary buyouts and involuntary layoffs, NAIT will reduce its staff by seven-to-nine per cent, spokesperson Bryan Alary said.

"Any time anybody loses their job, it's not a good day here," said Garry Wilson, president of the NAIT Academic Staff Association, on Monday.

Wilson said he finds the move confusing at a time the provincial government is encouraging more students to pursue careers in trades.

Tuition to cover more post-secondary costs

Many Alberta post-secondary institutions must revise plans for the next school year after the government cut spending on advanced education by more than six per cent in the 2020-21 provincial budget.

On Friday, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology also said it was cutting 230 jobs.

University of Alberta President David Turpin said Friday that institution faces an 11 per cent funding cut for 2020-21.

The Alberta government spends more per capita on post-secondary students than some other provinces, the finance minister has said. The province needs to curb overspending, he said.

The government wants universities and colleges to generate more revenue from tuition and other sources to reduce their dependency on public funding.

Alberta is in a "fiscal crisis," Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said Monday. If other provinces can offer high-quality programs with lower administrative costs, so can Alberta, he said.

"Staff reductions are never easy, and I know it's certainly a decision that the presidents and senior administration of the universities have not taken lightly," he said.

Tuition and class sizes will go up, NDP says

NDP advanced education critic David Eggen said the government's claim of overspending on education is "nonsense."

With a tuition freeze lifted last year, students are being asked to pay more for less, he said.

"There's going to be cuts to instruction, to instructors, class sizes are going to get bigger," Eggen said Monday. "People need to send a clear message to [Premier] Jason Kenney and the UCP to stop delivering body blows to post-secondary. It's wrong."

Unknown to people at NAIT is how job cuts will affect programs or services offered now.

Students rely on mental health workers, career counsellors and other non-academic employees, said Jason Roth, advocacy director at the NAIT Students' Association.

"I think there are probably a lot of nervous people on campus right now and, who could blame them," Roth said.

On April 2, the institute's board will vote on a plan that will determine the final number of buyouts and layoffs. NAIT doesn't have a targeted number of buyouts, Alary said.

NAIT has 16,400 students enrolled in degree, diploma and certificate programs, 8,400 apprentices in training, and 14,200 students taking non-credited courses.

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