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Stettler adult learning executive director stops by town council

Stettler Learning Centre executive director Heather Siebel stopped by town council on Feb. 6. The Stettler Learning Centre held a barbecue and open house on Sept. 21. (Stettler Independent file photo)

By Carson Ellis

For the Stettler Independent

The Stettler Adult Learning Centre’s (SALC) executive director, Heather Seibel, addressed town council on Feb. 6. Seibel discussed changing demographics as well as general operations and future plans.

The centre works closely with the Central Alberta Campus, which is a consortium of Olds College and Red Deer Polytechnic. They also work with Norquest College.

With these organizations, they can offer a variety of programs. Seibel says that SALC is working towards making Stettler and SALC the “….hub for distance education.” They feel they can deliver distance education and provide the programs that employees and employers are looking for.

Seibel shares that in Alberta one in 10 individuals only has reading, writing or math skills of grade nine or less.

In the town and county, that equals around 1,000 people. Siebel says that they are seeing more and more people coming through their doors because they need to upgrade their skills to get a job.

Another demographic they are seeing an increase in is those 50-plus who are looking to improve their technological skills to be able to access services such as the Canadian Revenue Agency, access health records, or even book appointments.

Many are looking to become more familiar with cell phone technology to help stay in touch with loved ones. Siebel also says that in the past month, they have had no less than five people coming in who have been in the trucking industry for years, but do not have the technological skills that are becoming a major part of the job.

In addition to their many programs for upgrading or improving education, they also offer general interest courses.

Things like learning new languages, wills and estates, or financial literacy. For these programs to work, they are collaborating with other organizations to help each other provide those who efficiently require their services.

Seibel says there has been a 50 per cent increase in men over women who are looking for their programs. They have also had a 123 per cent increase in learners in the last year. She notes that 37 per cent of people taking their courses are in the age range of 35-54 years old.

SALC is non-profit, with funding largely through the government, plus some grant money. The centre recorded 6,445 volunteer hours in 2022/23. This includes tutors, mentors, or just people helping with various programs. They have also recorded 5,685 paid hours for their staff.

SALC is set to be one of the first to implement the newly revised GED program, which is becoming the Canadian Adult Education Credential. The new program will be launching in May.

The centre is also seeing growth in its health care programs. They currently have six health care aides going through the program and have eight students for the practical nurse program in the fall and are also taking inquiries for EMT programs.

Seibel says they can also work with employees and employers and can customize programs for various-sized staff situations. Programs include things like team-building workshops.

SALC offers English as an additional language (formerly known as English as a second language.) There are currently three classes for this program at the centre.

They are looking for volunteers who can help with this program. This can be done in various ways, and in some cases, students are looking to just practice English in a social setting, and ‘have coffee.’

Seibel says that the Centre is still largely unknown to the public.

She wants to improve the profile of her organization, and local education in general. Seibel, who spent approximately 30 years teaching soft skills in Calgary, is happy to be home and says that there are plenty of people who would like to take courses locally and are not interested in travelling to the city.

She invites people to come and meet with her and her staff if they want to learn more.