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Online Schools & Degrees in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan is located right smack in the middle of Canada, bordering the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota, and it's defined by its vast prairies and the prevalence of lakes and rivers. It is also a tremendously diverse province, which, as Tourism Saskatchewan notes, translates into an especially rich cultural and historical experience. It is also an outdoor adventurer's dream, thanks to its abundant wildlife, protected park lands and scenic views — which earned it the nickname "Land of Living Skies."

Another distinctive feature of Saskatchewan? Its booming economy. In 2014, the CBC reported that Saskatchewan's impressive 3.4 percent unemployment rate was not just the lowest the province had seen in decades, but was the lowest in all of Canada. What's more, it was still declining. In 2013, the provincial government reported that two of the province's major cities, Saskatoon and Regina, boasted both the lowest unemployment rates among all Canadian cities and the strongest economic growth rate, which was a whopping three times the national average. In other words, Saskatchewan has jobs, and a lot of them.

Careers in Saskatchewan

While some provinces are constantly trying to create new jobs for their citizens, Saskatchewan is struggling to fill the jobs it already has. According to the same 2013 government report, the province has staged — and continues to stage — international job fairs to help close its now-and-future labor shortage. Employers have even turned to unconventional means of finding candidates. In 2014, for instance, major fuel tank manufacturer AGI Envirotank made headlines when it launched a national campaign to recruit hockey players to fill its vacant jobs (though the company admitted that it also had the ulterior motive of filling out the town of Biggar's hockey team roster).

So where are the jobs? According to a separate Government of Saskatchewan report, the province's natural resources, which include 75 percent of the world's potash reserves and many of its uranium deposits, help drive its economy and, in turn, jobs. Crude oil, natural gas, coal and electrical energy are also major job producers, as is nonenergy mineral production. Tourism, manufacturing, information technology and construction are buzzing, too.

Many, but not all, of these jobs are concentrated in major cities such as Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw. Saskatoon, for instance, is home to the world's largest publicly traded uranium company, Cameco, and the world's largest potash producer, PotashCorp. Regina is known as a major oil, mining and transportation hub, and Prince Albert, popularly known as the "Gateway to the North," is a mecca of agriculture, forestry, mining and tourism. Energy — particularly hydroelectric power and biofuels — is another good source of jobs in Prince Albert.

Students attending colleges in Saskatchewan should take note of these growing fields, not just because they are high-demand fields (though that is a major benefit), but because the province desperately needs more college-educated workers — and fast.

Colleges in Saskatchewan

Although it's clear that Saskatchewan needs workers of all types, the demand for college-educated workers is particularly strong. So strong, in fact, that in 2012, the Government of Saskatchewan launched the Saskatchewan Plan for Growth, a key goal of which is to educate, train and develop a skilled workforce — one that can help the province maintain a competitive edge, economically speaking. In practical terms, that means investing more in higher education and creating programs that make college more affordable and accessible. It also means establishing programs that attract students not just from across Canada, but from all across the globe.

Why the big push? According to the program's official report, nearly half of all jobs advertised on the government-run SaskaJobs website in 2011 required some type of postsecondary education, and that share will likely only grow as more baby boomers retire from the workforce. The good news is that there are several Saskatchewan schools prepared to meet this looming challenge. These colleges are as diverse as Saskatchewan itself (and that is saying something), but most fall into one of two major categories: vocational schools or universities.

1. Vocational schools in Saskatchewan

Vocational, technical and careers schools focus primarily on skilled, professional trades. (Think: allied health, auto maintenance and welding.) Students typically earn certificates, diplomas or associate degrees following one to two years of study. Vocational colleges can be managed federally, regionally, or privately, and they may target specific groups, like aboriginal students or students of a particular faith, as in the case of religious training institutions. Some, like the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology, focus on highly technical trades. Students can certainly attend campus-based vocational programs, but online programs are an increasingly popular option, depending on the discipline.

2. Universities in Saskatchewan

Universities in Saskatchewan are akin to four-year colleges in other provinces and the United States. These colleges focus on professional and academic disciplines, like law, business, education, engineering and medicine. Bachelor's degrees, which take three to four years on average to complete, are the most common credential earned and can serve as a stepping stone to higher degrees, like master's degrees and doctorates. The highest credential one can earn in Saskatchewan is called a "higher doctorate," which is one step beyond a doctorate. Higher doctorates, like the Doctor of Science or the Doctor of Letters, are typically only awarded to those who have published original research or other works over the course of at least 10 years.

Some of the biggest and best-known universities in Saskatchewan include:

  • The University of Saskatchewan, which is in Saskatoon
  • The University of Regina
  • The First Nations University of Canada, which has campuses in Regina Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

The First Nations University of Canada is technically a federated college of the University of Regina, but it primarily serves First Nations students. There are also a number of private institutions that operate in Saskatchewan, many of which specialize in online education.

Prospective students can learn more about universities and colleges in Saskatchewan online through the Government of Saskatchewan, by visiting SaskNetWork (another official government site),or by contacting schools directly. SaskNetWork also offers resources on nontraditional modes of learning, including competency-based and online education.

Financial aid

Most Saskatchewan schools strive to make higher education both accessible and affordable, but some students need a little extra help managing their college costs. The Government of Saskatchewan's Student Service Centre offers a number of financial aid programs for college students, including loans, bursaries (akin to grants in the United States), work-study arrangements and graduate tax benefit programs. It even offers what is called the Provincial Training Allowance, which is a grant designed to help low-income students manage their living costs. Students can apply for loans and other aid online, or by visiting their school's dedicated financial aid office. Note that students can often find private sources of financial aid, including nongovernment loans and third-party scholarships.

Students who want to attend schools outside of Saskatchewan may want to consider keep their eyes peeled for the launch of the Saskatchewan's International Future Scholarship, which as of 2014 is a still-developing but tremendously unique program. What makes it so unusual? Each year the Saskatchewan government will provide financial support to 20 students studying business at foreign institutions. In exchange, students agree to move and work in Saskatchewan for at least five years after graduation.

Sources:

"Sask. firm hopes to recruit hockey players to manufacturing jobs," CBC News, May 29, 2014,
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/sask-firm-hopes-to-recruit-hockey-players-to-manufacturing-jobs-1.2657568

"Unemployment was low in Sask., now it's lower," CBC News, May 9, 2014,
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/unemployment-was-low-in-sask-now-it-s-lower-1.2637243

"Government of Saskatchewan Proclaims International Education Week," Government of Saskatchewan, Nov. 13, 2012,
http://www.gov.sk.ca/news?newsId=b4789797-c5b0-4256-badb-86d2752f2296

Key Sectors, Government of Saskatchewan,
http://www.gov.sk.ca/keysectors

Saskatchewan Plan for Growth: Vision 2020 and Beyond, Government of Saskatchewan,
http://gov.sk.ca/adx/aspx/adxGetMedia.aspx?DocID=4208,3975,594,1,Documents&MediaID=da3f2b1a-dade-4e4e-8308-5d1534bc4729&Filename=Saskatchewan+Plan+for+Growth+-+Full+Version.pdf

Saskatchewan Plan for Growth: 2013 Progress Report, Government of Saskatchewan,
http://www.saskatchewan.ca/~/media/files/pdfs/growth%20plan%20progress%20report.pdf

Universities in Saskatchewan, Government of Saskatchewan,
http://www.gov.sk.ca/universities-colleges/

Learning Options: Distance Learning, SaskNetWork, Government of Saskatchewan,
http://www.sasknetwork.gov.sk.ca/html/Learners/educationtraining/learnoptions.htm#distance

Post-Secondary Institutions and Programs, SaskNetWork, Government of Saskatchewan,
http://www.sasknetwork.gov.sk.ca/html/Learners/educationtraining/postinstitutions.htm

Student Financial Assistance System, Student Service Centre, Government of Saskatchewan,
https://www.sfaonlineapp.gov.sk.ca:4445/sfawebapp/servlet/CtrlIndex

Uniquely Saskatchewan, Tourism Saskatchewan,
http://www.tourismsaskatchewan.com/uniquely-saskatchewan

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