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LISTEN: Program offers stepping stone to jobs as environmental consultants

Program Coordinator Al Bertschi from the Natural Resources Technology Program's winter survival video.

The program provides 13 industry-recognized certificates, including H2S and winter survival.

By Staff
With files from Dustin McGladrey of CFWE-FM

Portage College is delivering a two-year Natural Resources Technology diploma program out of its Lac La Biche campus.

It is an environmental sciences-type program, said program coordinator Al Bertschi in an interview with Dustin McGladrey of CFWE-FM. It focuses on the five major elements of the environment –soil, water, plants, animals and the air.

The program is unique in that there are lectures in the morning and, every afternoon, the students are out in the field, whatever the weather conditions, Bertschi said.

“It’s a winter program, and we certainly do dance around the cold weather,” he laughed.

The program offers skill building in plant, soil and animal identification, and provides 13 industry-recognized certificates, including H2S and winter survival. These certificate would be worth about $2,800 if an individual took the courses independently.

The program has an expert in plant identification with a speciality in mushrooms as one of the instructors. He is also a speaker with the Edmonton Muttart Conservatory. He also provides cooking with mushrooms lessons.

Students who complete the program are eligible for employment with governmental organizations, in the oil and gas sector and many other private sector groups for good careers in environmental industries, said Bertschi. The program is also a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of Alberta.

“Whenever construction is happening for our area, we’re in the Boreal Forest…. they’ll send out environmental scientists, environmental students, before say a pipeline goes in. And they have to take inventory of the plants that are there. They have to take inventory of the amount of top soil that’s there. And if there are streams that need to be crossed then they need to identify any fish-bearing streams and what type of fish there are, and those are the kinds of jobs that environmental consultants can do.”

Job opportunities for graduates can include Bird and Wildlife Services Technician, Environmental Field Technician, Field Plant Surveyor, Field Technician-Ambient Air Quality, Fisheries Technician, Forester, GIS/GPS Technologist, Intermediate Field Biologist/Technician, Intermediate/Junior Water Resources Engineer, Junior Air Quality Scientist, Junior Aquatics Environmental Technician, Weed Inspector or Invasive Weed Monitoring.

Interested in the program? Apply online at or call Portage College for more information. There will be an open house for the program next March. Potential students need a strong background in biology, math and English.

Watch the winter outdoor survival video here:

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