Nicola Valley Institute of Technology spearheads economic development training.
The five bands in the tribal council, the Coldwater, Nooaitch, Upper Nicola, Lower Nicola and Shackan First Nations, were seeking accredited education in a culturally-reinforced environment. In 1983, in Merritt, B.C., that dream started to become a reality.
The dream, however, started small, with one program and only 12 students. But in just a mere 13 years, the NVIT grew to where it now serves 250 students from 195 First Nations across Canada.
In 1995, the NVIT received designation from the province of British Columbia as an Aboriginal provincial institute. Today, NVIT has seven departments, Academic Studies, Administrative Studies, Developmental Education, Fine Art, Indigenous Studies, Natural Resource Technology and Social Work & Human Services, and offers post-secondary diplomas, certificates and associate degrees in 17 program areas.
But in the field of economic development, it is NVIT's Off-Site Aboriginal Community Economic Development Program that attracts a lot of attention. The off-site method allows for NVIT to provide education to Aboriginal students across Canada, because the program is broken down into 20 modules each five and a half days long that are delivered directly to the First Nations communities, with two facilitators provided to aid with the instruction. The courses are designed for a maximum of 20 students at a time.
"It's a national program -- we deliver our diploma to First Nations across Canada," said Ken Tourand, administrative coordinator of the CED department at NVIT. "We've been to Truro, Nova Scotia, Moose Factory, Ont., Lutsel'ke, N.W.T. and throughout B.C."
"We also partner with other Native institutions in delivering our program," he continued. "The main one being Chemaimus Native College on Vancouver Island."
At least one of the facilitators is Aboriginal. The diploma program normally takes four years, but NVIT will deliver the modules whenever the First Nations community requests them.
"We were very happy and honored to receive national recognition for the CED [Community Economic Development] program," said Tourand. "We feel that the CED program is unique because it brings the education into the communities, rather than people having to leave their communities to get their education."
"It allows people to continue working at their jobs, yet still receive training," he continued.
Another benefit to this education is that these courses can be transferred for credit to the four year degree program at University of Lethbridge's school of management's BESS (Business Enterprises and Self-Governing Systems of Indian, Inuit and Metis Peoples) program.
The career opportunities available to CED participants are Economic Development Officer, Business Planner/Analyst, Business Development Consultant, Band Planner/Manager and Community Development Worker. Ultimately, this program is geared towards First Nations communities achieving greater economic self-sufficiency.
Some of the courses offered include Introduction to Aboriginal Community Economic Development, Introduction to Accounting, Community Development, Management, Introduction to Marketing, Computer Information Systems, Technical Communications, Contemporary First Nations Issues and Strategic & Financial Planning.
"We're controlled by a board of governors from the Nicola Valley Tribal Council," said Tourand. "And we have an independent education philosophy that guides us in everything we do."