New facility provides new learning environment for Portage College students

April 18, 2018

Climate change has come to Portage College - and faculty and students couldn't be happier about it. The new Environmental Studies building is now open and students in the College's Natural Resources Technology (NRT) program have already moved in and are busy attending classes, working in new lab spaces and catching up with their friends in a new common area.

Construction started in June 2017 and was completed in February 2018. The energy-efficient facility, which will have its official grand opening in the fall, features increased lab and classroom space, a greenhouse and a water simulation lab. NRT students and faculty moved into the building in January and have been singing its praises ever since.

"It's great to finally have our own, dedicated space and to be able to put down some roots," said NRT Program Coordinator Al Bertschi. "We now have the ideal learning environment and the teaching space to allow our unique program to grow and our students to flourish."

Portage's NRT program is the only one of its kind in the province, focusing on the boreal forest, reclamation and the wildlife within it. Students spend two years studying all components of the environment, including water, fish, wildlife, soil, air and plants, and receive hands-on training in the lab (including computer-simulation labs) and outside in the wilderness adjoining Lac La Biche County. Bertschi noted the greenhouse, which features energy-efficient LED multi-spectrum lights, will allow students to study plants year-round, compost and conduct various experiments, regardless of the conditions outside.

"This is invaluable to our program," he said. "It allows us to make the best use of students' time and provide them with the best education possible."

As part of the future plans for the building, the College intends to create a "living wall", a self-sufficient upright garden that will run up one of the interior walls.

The $1.5 million facility renovation and greenhouse construction was funded through support from all levels of government, including federal government's Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund grants. In addition to housing the NRT program, the Environmental Studies building will also be home to current and future Water and Wastewater programming.

The completion of the Environmental Studies building marks the culmination of a stellar year for the NRT program. Last summer, the College signed transfer agreements with three institutions that will allow NRT diploma graduates to apply their credits towards bachelor programs at Lakeland College (Bachelor of Applied Science: Environmental Management), Lethbridge College (Bachelor of Applied Science) and the University of Alberta (Bachelor of Science Environmental and Conservation Sciences).

"With our new building and more pathways available to our graduates, we are poised to provide an even better educational experience for our students," said Bertschi. "They're trained to be able to find jobs in the areas of soils, vegetation, wildlife or water resources - all aspects of the environment where we work and play. Our program at Portage College is where it all grows from."

For more information about the Natural Resources Technology program, click here.
For more information about becoming a Water and Wastewater Operator, click here.
The public is also welcome to take a tour of the new facility. To arrange a visit please contact Janice Bryks for a custom tour.
Telephone: 780-623-5654
Toll Free: 1-866-623-5551
Email: Janice Bryks

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