SAIT’s Broadcast Systems Technology (BXST) program, the last broadcast engineering course of its kind left in the country, is set to fall under provincial budget cuts.
The Calgary post-secondary college announced Friday that 230 positions will be eliminated, following measures in the fall 2019 Alberta budget.
SAIT spokesperson Chris Gerritsen confirmed to Broadcast Dialogue on Wednesday that BXST is one of the programs that SAIT currently does not plan to re-offer.
“With very few applicants for the fall term, the Broadcast Systems Technology (BXST) program is currently under evaluation,” Gerritsen said in an email. “Thus, we will not be accepting students or running the program for the fall 2020 intake. There is no planned date for future offerings.”
The news has created shockwaves through the broadcast engineering community as the program was a primary source of new talent for broadcast technician positions across the country, supplying radio and television stations, film and video production companies, manufacturers, and the live events industry.
Graduating its first class of Broadcast Technologists in 1969, the two-year program celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019 by moving into a new state-of-the-art, digital TV and radio lab. The program is one of the few certified by the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) because of its unique focus on the technical engineering side.
“SAIT was our only source of technologists specifically trained for the broadcast industry. This will be a significant blow to us for recruitment,” said Laverne Siemens, Director of Engineering, Golden West Radio. “It is a real surprise in light of the report we heard at the WABE (Western Association of Broadcast Engineers) and the new lab they just built for the course. We understand that the current first year students will get to finish the course, but that they are not taking any new students.”
Clint Hollinger, WABE president, told Broadcast Dialogue that conversations are continuing with SAIT on how the industry can be served. Meantime, a grassroots effort is underway by the engineering community to lobby SAIT President David Ross and the SAIT Board of Governors to reconsider the decision.
“WABE has always worked closely with SAIT by facilitating scholarships, and training seminars and were shocked as neither the faculty nor industry was consulted on this decision even though SAIT’s advisory committees would regularly meet to discuss the needs of industry,” said Hollinger, who noted that all of the country’s major broadcast groups, in addition to ISED (Innovation, Science, and Economic Development), employ BXST graduates.
“Their decision this week does not support their mandate to contribute to economic development by helping foster and maintain a skilled and productive workforce through programs designed, developed and delivered in close consultation with industry, through the use of advisory committees.”
Hollinger said students were being notified of the program’s phase out this week.
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