By Samantha Johnson
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Establishing an online career counselling website to assist students and their parents with exploring career and post-secondary options is one of the goals Premier Danielle Smith outlined for Minister of Education Demetrios Nicolaides in a recently issued mandate letter.
It notes $20 million will be invested over four years to promoting career pathways. Others goals include organizing high school career fairs, putting advertising campaigns in high schools promoting high-demand careers, more teacher training for career and technology studies, and promoting career educational scholarships in labour shortage areas.
Smith also requests Nicolaides increase student participation in programs or paid internships in the community, and to design and implement an apprenticeship system for high school students, along with enhancing and creating more dual-credit programs.
An additional $5 million is to be invested for improved testing and supports for children with complex needs, including autism. After evaluation, qualified professional supports are to be expanded if needed, including speech language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and psychologists. To address learning loss, more educational assistants will be added to classrooms. Additionally, Program Unit Funding is to be reviewed and strengthened for young children with disabilities or delay.
Four new youth mental wellness centres are to be created in the province that will provide inpatient mental health and addiction treatment for youth. Nicolaides is tasked to work with lead Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Dan Williams on this goal.
Promoting parental educational choice, reviewing the role of parent school councils, increasing the number of schools where needed, bringing more collegiate schools online, continuing to implement the new K-12 curriculum, expediating teaching certificates to fast-track skilled trades and other professionals into teaching positions for Grades 7-12, and exploring incentives for the recruitment and retention of teachers, educational assistants and support staff were also tasks set out for Nicolaides in the letter.