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NAIT lays plans for a new trades facility, student housing

By Adrian St.Onge on April 24, 2023

The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology‘s trades programs train over 10,000 students per year and with NAIT’s inaugural class graduating in 1965, many of these original tradespeople have since retired. Deans and department heads wonder why the aging building has yet to be retired or upgraded to meet current industry demands. To meet those demands, NAIT recently purchased land north and west of the current main campus and plans to develop a new facility.

NAIT submitted a $450 million project plan to try and amalgamate these programs, especially programs with common courses and years, by 2030. While the planning is still in the early stages, NAIT sent a team of tradespeople to the Greater Toronto Area to visit schools that recently went through a new campus build or renovated buildings.

The “Carpentry Cube” at Fleming College

Currently, courses such as carpentry, machining and automotive are spread across NAIT’s main campus in various wings. The plumbing, welding and crane operating trades are located even further, with crane operating only available in Spruce Grove.

Planning for the new building requires all trade schools to talk and work together, Matthew Lindberg, the Dean of the School of Skilled Trades said.

Making facility in Conestoga College.

“You can absolutely tell that they got their staff involved and their faculty involved in the design,” Lindberg said. “Within three months, they have done a spectacular amount of work to get the shops and labs ready and you wouldn’t get that level of buy-in if you hadn’t involved folks right from the beginning to kind of say ‘This is your project, you’re, you’re involved in helping create this space.'”

Plumbing area in Conestoga College.

Over three days, the team visited seven institutes and 10 campuses:

The trip aimed to discern the good from the bad and to learn from industry and academic peers about creating a new campus from the ground up. Mohawk College, for example, uses their utilities area as a learning aid, something NAIT executives noted.

Mohawk College’s recycled water area, used as a learning guide.

“It’s brilliant.” Loyde Tober, NAIT’s Chair for the Machinists and HVAC program said. “Why not? I mean, we’ve got all of these resources, we’ve got all of this infrastructure, use it as a training tool for the students. That’s real world stuff. They did a really good job of that. It was very clean, it was open, it was labeled. It was great.”

Some of the sights included a carpentry cube, an automotive shop and glass glazing into labs and classrooms. Common complaints came from hosting schools, including a lack of storage, staff-student ratios and student housing. 

Automotive storage at Fanshawe College.

The proposed project is seeking to address the issue of student housing for apprentices, something that has yet to be solved by any school. Most residences at other post-secondaries house degree or diploma students enrolled for over six months. Still, NAIT is the largest post-secondary school in Alberta to not offer student housing. 



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