Recognized as one of Alberta's Top Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 3, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why NAIT / Northern Alberta Institute of Technology was selected as one of Alberta's Top Employers (2016):
- Employees working on campus at NAIT can take advantage of many onsite amenities, including a quiet room for meditation or religious observance, an employee lounge stocked with video games, a pool table, foosball and table hockey as well as a state-of-the-art fitness facility complete with basketball, squash and racquetball courts, a climbing wall, swimming pool and indoor running track
- NAIT recognizes exceptional employee performance through its "SHINE" program, which includes categories for customer service, health and safety, sustainability initiatives, technology and innovation, going the extra mile and a dedicated leadership award
- NAIT encourages employees to prepare for the future with retirement planning assistance and contributions to a defined benefit pension plan --the organization also offers phased-in work options to help retiring employees transition to life after work
Staff who come to NAIT stay at NAIT
Jodi Howick's forte is occupational health and safety (OH&S). When the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) hired her 15 years ago, it was as an OH&S consultant. When, however, the Edmonton polytechnic later identified a need for an OH&S diploma program, Howick morphed into the role of instructor. "Instead of having an impact on one organization, I have an impact on hundreds of organizations through my students," she says.
Today, she chairs the OH&S program, devoting half of her time to teaching classes and the other half to administering what is the only full-time diploma program of its kind in the Prairie provinces.
NAIT offers 122 programs in the areas of science, technology and the environment, business, health and trades. As one of two polytechnics in Alberta, NAIT's technical training and applied education are designed to meet the demands of the province's industries.
Howick is one of 2,827 employees at NAIT, about 1,200 of whom are instructors. Functions such as culinary and custodial services, which are contracted out by many institutions, are provided at NAIT by in-house staff who have developed strong loyalty to the polytechnic.
NAIT has an extremely low turnover of employees - and not only among its instructors. "Staff who come to NAIT stay at NAIT," says Dr. Glenn Feltham, President and CEO. "And they're proud of the fact they've been at NAIT." He cites a workplace culture based on "respect, accountability, collaboration, support and celebration."
NAIT emphasizes training and skills development for all its employees, says Feltham. New instructors have the opportunity to take the three-week Become a Master Instructor (BMI) course, which hones their academic rigour in such areas as classroom management techniques, adult learning principles and lesson planning. "Our instructors have a passion for teaching," says Feltham.
Staff can take courses in-house in such areas as project management, group facilitation and leadership supervision. NAIT offers up to $5,000 a year toward "credential enhancement" externally, such as the online executive MBA that Howick is pursuing. (She also qualifies for $800 annually in professional development funds that can go toward textbook purchases.)
Programs that NAIT teaches its students translate into a range of services available to the employees at nominal fees. The animal health technology program provides services such as spay and neutering and vaccinations for employees' pets. The auto mechanics program does curriculum-related maintenance for employees.
The dental assistants program provides teeth cleaning and dentures to employees and their children (and is also open to the public). The culinary and hospitality programs operate Ernest's, a fine-dining room which provides an exceptional dining experience at reasonable prices.
NAIT offers its employees excellent health benefits. They are eligible for free membership at NAIT's fitness centre (with a nominal rate for spouse and children) and receive a flexible health spending account of at least $650 annually per employee.
The skilled trades programs also enable instructors and their students to contribute to the local community. Each year they participate on builds for Habitat for Humanity. Students in the carpentry, plumbing and electrical classes do the construction, and OH&S students conduct safety inspections. "It gives students an opportunity not only to practise their skills but to understand how important it is to volunteer," says Howick.