Grande Prairie Regional College President Robert Murray says the recommendations recently put forward by Alberta’s 11 Comprehensive Community Colleges are designed to complement the province’s ideas for economic recovery. Released earlier in July, the 15 recommendations from the Alberta Colleges Economic Recovery Task Force place an emphasis on applied research and technology innovations, as well as using the expertise of the collective colleges to help fill workforce gaps within the province.

Murray says some of the recommendations would require collaboration with multiple orders of government to succeed.

“I think the biggest thing for us is going to be moving in the [right] direction as a group of colleges on taking a systemic approach to implementing the recommendations,” he says. “We have to take the first step as a system and as colleges to move in the direction of implementation to let our partners know that we are serious about it and that we are able to use our expertise and our resources to be able to contribute to these key areas.”

Many of the task force recommendations suggest placing a higher emphasis on training students in high-tech fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, or retraining workers into positions that would allow for the development of new technologies. Murray says that industries in Alberta have the capability and capacity to adopt discussions into AI and machine learning, though it has largely not been a topic of much focus yet.

“We know that artificial intelligence and machine learning are the way of the future… I think one of the key gaps is commercializing technology and really moving things away from that research conversation, [and] into practical application,” he says. “Especially practical application in the workforce and the industry; this is where the commercialization conversation becomes so important and colleges being at the intersection of applied research and application is so important.”

The keyword of the CCC’s recommendations being “Innovation” for both students and industry at the commercial scale, the organization suggests Alberta has not tapped into the full potential of its colleges. Much of the push going forward will be to enrich student learning through experiential and practical application at the post-secondary level, as well as to transition working industries at the commercial level into utilizing new technologies.