Good morning, and thank you very much. I'm Alex Zahavich. I'm the vice-president of corporate development and applied research at SAIT.
SAIT is the oldest technical vocational institute in North America. We just celebrated our 101st birthday. We are in the business of applied education. We are members of CICan, Colleges and Institutes Canada, and Polytechnics Canada. We are the largest college in Alberta. We service 45,000 students annually, and have alumni in 160 countries, 220,000 strong around the world. The average age of our student is 25 years. Of our students, 25% come to us already with a post-secondary education and credentials. Today, we have 200 Ph.D. students enrolled at SAIT.
Our collaborative relationship with industry is our strength, and that's part of our brand, because we graduate into jobs. Some 85% of our graduating class last year, 5,000 students, graduated into jobs they were trained for. While education is the jurisdiction of the provinces, we have benefited and collaborated very closely with the federal government on a number of initiatives, both financially and through policy.
Last year, we were recognized by our peers as the top research college in Canada. One of the initiatives of the federal government is the creation of the applied research network among the college sector. Our applied research and innovation services department works closely with industry to develop new products, increase productivity, and commercialize new markets for industry. Our students directly work with those companies, and graduate through those projects into jobs with the companies with which they do the projects.
We're not encumbered by publishing. We don't get hung up on intellectual property. That belongs with industry to commercialize. Because of that relationship, we need to see that reinforced through some recommendations we'd like to put forward today. I know I'm speaking on behalf of my colleagues across the country in the college and polytechnic sector.
From a competitive standpoint, we need to see the tri-council funding expanded. Currently, out of $3.1 billion spent on post-secondary research, the college sector gets 1.7%, $53 million. It wouldn't take much to double that to support more project activity, and to provide indirect cost funding. We have to support our infrastructure through our operating grants. The universities don't have to do that. It is not a we-they. We partner very closely with the University of Calgary and other universities in Canada. In fact, they named us, and we are very grateful to be part of the award on the CFREF grant that came forward. We will be part of the supercluster applications that are coming forward as well.
The second element of competitiveness is an odd one, because people don't realize that the post-secondary education sector is a form of economic diversification, and that form can come through international students. The multiplier on a $15,000 tuition from a student coming from Mexico or China is four times the contribution to the local economy. Global Affairs Canada has a digital strategy that is worth $5 million. That doesn't get you very much in a competitive world. Australia has a minister of international education and tourism. It is serious about what it does. While it is a provincial jurisdiction, there's no reason why Canada cannot have a common front when we go for international students. That will help diversify our economy.
Third, we have worked very closely with the regional funding agencies, in our case, Western Economic Diversification Canada, which is a very strong body here, but we need some predictability, and it needs some predictability in the funding. Annual funding is a very difficult thing with which to work. The industry benefits from western diversification, but there is uncertainty annually about what it has to work with, so we need that stabilized. We are able to leverage that by bringing industry partners to the table to support those funds.
Finally, every once in a while, what comes across our desk is something called a strategic infrastructure fund or knowledge infrastructure program. That should be done annually. There is a capital deficit in the post-secondary system. There are job creation opportunities, but there are also competitiveness and productivity opportunities. We need those facilities to be annually upgraded to meet the needs of industry across the country.
Thank you very much. I welcome your questions.