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SAIT Polytechnic


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A polytechnic is an innovative and entrepreneurial post-secondary institution, distinct from universities and colleges in that it offers a skill-focused approach to learning. From apprenticeships to baccalaureate degrees, full-time to part-time, polytechnic institutions offer a range of credentials in diverse program areas focused on experience-oriented training. Multi-disciplined and industry responsive, polytechnic programs provide students with the required knowledge and skills for a rewarding career. Leaders in applied research and innovation, polytechnics work closely with industry, regional and local organizations, and community partners, providing access to leading-edge knowledge, skill, and resources. Canada's polytechnics also offer various industry training products to corporations across the country and around the world. As one of Canada's leading polytechnics, SAIT Polytechnic provides relevant, skill-oriented education to more than 75,000 registrants each year. Approximately 1,000 business and industry partners help shape curriculum by serving on more than 65 advisory committees. SAIT was the first publicly-funded institute of its kind in the country, and 97 years later, it is well on its way to becoming Canada's premier polytechnic. SAIT is a member of Polytechnics Canada, a national alliance of leading research-intensive, publicly-funded colleges and institutes of technology dedicated to helping colleges and industry create high-quality jobs for the future.

SAIT has a rich history beginning with our creation as the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (PITA) in 1916. The first publicly-funded technical institute in Canada, PITA, was initially housed at the Colonel James Walker School and the adjacent police and fire station in southeast Calgary. From the earliest days, PITA focused on hands-on, skills-oriented training designed to meet the practical needs of employers, a philosophy that continues to this day.

PITA officially opened its doors Oct. 16, 1916, with programs in motor mechanics and metalworking, 11 students and seven staff. Within two weeks, 370 students were enrolled, all but 11 in the evening, Saturday, or correspondence classes. Soon, PITA was retraining so many returning soldiers from World War I that private instruction was suspended for two years. In 1918, PITA became a hospital facility for a short time to treat influenza pandemic victims.

PITA re-opened to regular students in 1920 and moved to the present-day SAIT campus in 1922, with the completion of the three-story red brick and sandstone building — now known as Heritage Hall — is still a landmark today. The facility was shared with the Calgary Normal School, a teacher-training facility. This arrangement continued until the regular school moved in 1960 to the campus that would become the University of Calgary. The power plant was also part of the original campus in 1922. A portion still stands today and is known as the Eugene Coste Building.

Correspondence courses flourished in the 1920s, along with outreach night school programs to rural areas. The art department was established in 1926 with classes in oils, watercolors, decorative design, and lettering. During the early 1930s — the worst years of the Great Depression — government funding to PITA was drastically cut, forcing the school to double tuition fees, drop programs and reduce staff salaries. Enrolment plummeted as education became unaffordable. In response to the desperate times, PITA replaced most regular programming with free classes for the unemployed.

In 2003, SAIT became a founding member of Polytechnics Canada and was rebranded as SAIT in 2004. Polytechnic education is characterized by:

  • close ties with business and industry to ensure programs reflect the needs of the workplace
  • diverse programming in technical, business and creative fields, with a balance of skills-based and theoretical learning
  • a range of credentials from certificates and apprenticeships to bachelor degrees, and options to ladder into other credentials
  • opportunities for students to participate in applied research and other innovative projects connected with the industry.

Programs are delivered through eight academic schools: Business, Construction, Energy, Health and Public Safety, Hospitality and Tourism, Information and Communications Technologies, Manufacturing and Automation, and Transportation. English language foundations and academic upgrading are also offered. Partners from business and industry serve on SAIT's program advisory committees to ensure students receive hands-on, practical training that reflects the needs of the workplace.

SAIT is a leader in applied research and innovation, providing expertise and resources to industry and real-world learning experiences to students. SAIT delivers training internationally and hosts learners from all over the world. SAIT was a founding sponsor of WorldSkills Calgary 2009 — an international competition devoted to raising awareness that the skilled trades and technologies are vital to the global economy. Some 150,000 visitors attended WorldSkills, and the SAIT campus served as the Competitors' Village.

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