Message From Olds College Re Horticulture Program Review

Sent on behalf of Dean Negropontes, School of Environment, Olds College

Dear Industry Partners,

Today we met with the School of Environment faculty and staff to discuss their first impressions of the Olds College Horticulture Program Review Final Report and Recommendations. The review project goals included achieving clarity on five outcomes:

1.      Programs are clearly aligned with student demand and interest

2.      Programs meet the needs of the industries being served

3.      Programs propose unique propositions to differentiate them within the market of horticulture training in Canada (destination programs)

4.      Programs can provide students with transferable courses and defined academic pathways

5.      College resources are aligned to sustain the program offered in 2014-2015 and beyond

Over the course of a few months, consultants conducted interviews and online surveys of all stakeholder groups including students, graduates, staff, faculty and industry. They also reviewed documentations and submissions from faculty and staff.

With respect to the horticulture program at Olds College industry representatives and program graduates indicated a high regard for faculty and staff, most specifically with respect to their knowledge levels, professionalism and dedication to the program and students.  With respect to the on-campus facilities, faculty and staff were extremely proud of them and industry was very impressed.  Most interviewees could appreciate that program changes were required and many seemed to be aware that enrolment levels had declined over time.

The results of this review indicated that the education and training provided by the horticulture program is valued by industry and program graduates yet, revisions are required to the way in which the programming is currently being delivered. With respect to program outcomes, industry has indicated that a renewed focus needs to be placed upon the fundamental skills required by horticulture and production graduates and there is a need for hands-on work experience to become a required program component. Feedback from current students and program graduates confirmed these findings.

A program recommendation is put forward that is likely to address these issues as well as address the vision that the Alberta government has for post-secondary education in the province. Additional recommendations that address related issues and concerns are also put forward, most important of which is the need to improve the structure and function of the Industry Advisory Committees (IAC's).  Current and past members indicated the importance of these Committees, yet also indicated that their effectiveness had diminished over time. Additional recommendations include:

*         Considering the ways in which formal touch-points with industry can be expanded, at both the School and the program level; increasing the level of industry engagement in classes and considering the creation of an Industry Chair that can assist in furthering these relationships.

*         Considering the alignment of programs with designations offered by national, recognized organizations; collaborating with industry in the development of provincial certification standards for the industry and requiring students to complete pesticide applicator certification training.

*         Formalizing, documenting and communicating the pathways available to students for laddering between programs; lining course offerings in order to eliminate duplication; requiring work-experience as a formal, credited requirement of programs and offering business-related courses through the School of Business.

Please keep in mind these recommendations must now go through a thorough discussion by the School of Environment. A working group has been tasked with developing a plan for discussion with the School of Environment. After this process, there are a number of formal steps to be taken to implement changes to course content, delivery modes and laddering between programs. At the same time, Olds College will continue to meet their commitments to current students.

We will re-engage you in November with the response to the recommendations and an indication of how this review has reshaped our programming.

If you have any questions, please contact me.

Regards, Dot Negropontes, Ed.D
Acting Dean School of Environment Olds College