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Building on sustainable First Nation employment.

Maximizing opportunities for First Nations to create sustainable employment through education and training is proving successful in five James Bay coastal communities.


By mid December, 2006, up to 229 First Nations individuals were trained through the James Bay Employment Training (JBET) board under a $7.87 million three-year training project, says Phil Sutherland, JBET's executive director.

Training began in April, 2006, and is scheduled until March 31,2009, for band members in Peawanuk, Fort Albany, Moose Factory, Kashechewan, and Attawapiskat. Encouraged with the numbers to date, close to one-third of their original 1,020-person training target is complete. Sutherland says a third of those individuals have obtained employment either at De Beers Canada Victor site or with related contractors.

De Beers Canada public & corporate affairs manager Tom Ormsby says as of December, 2006,297 of the 700 person-construction workforce currently on site were First Nations. Although the numbers change depending on the nature of the construction, he adds 70 per cent of the total workforce, since construction began, has been from Northern Ontario and more than 400 persons have been First Nations.

"We are trying to increase capacity for those looking for work on long-term jobs on the Victor site," Ormsby says. "We'll continue to work with James Bay Employment Training to try and identify the right programs and candidates, and continue to build that capacity"

Funded under the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP) program, contributing players are the Federal ($7.87 million) and Provincial (up to $1.4 million) governments, the Mushkegowuk Employment Training Services operated by the Mushkegowuk Council ($1 million), and De Beers Canada, which contributed $1.5 million.

Additionally, De Beers provided $800,000 toward the training centre in Attawapiskat, and $130,000 toward the Books and Home program, which has delivered almost 6,000 books to approximately 1,600 students within the five communities, a proactive approach to increase literacy.

Sutherland is pleased with the various levels of government working together to address the skill shortages in the communities in the Far North.

"This opportunity is something we'll likely see once in a lifetime."

Focused on meeting the educational shortfalls with the five communities, Sutherland says a lot of the communities are experiencing a high level of inadequate education with 95 per cent unemployment rates.

Consequently, Northern College is participating in 80 per cent of the training where presently, more than 50 programs are being offered. These programs range from academic upgrading, independent living skills, health and safety courses, EZ truck driving, and software applications to apprenticeship-type programs like welding, electrical, and heavy equipment mechanic. In early October 2006, a pre-apprenticeship native residential construction worker program began in Kashechewan.

"We sit on the JBET board as a resource and we're involved in the development of the training plan," says Bob Mack, Northern College's manager of Apprenticeship, Workforce, Development and Training.

Mack says one of the focuses is to provide certification with the courses in order to build a bank of qualified people who can then begin to train others, similar to a train the trainer program. Sutherland says it is being well received and compliments an existing human resource development program offered by Mushkegowuk Council.

"In some communities we have a backlog of up to 40 or 50 people waiting to get into the academic upgrading program to bring their skill levels up in order to go into the apprenticeship programs."

Much of the training is offered in the home communities, accompanied by a project officer who assists with providing program information, processing applications, and travel arrangements for training when necessary. Mack says some of the practical courses required training at the college's campuses in either South Porcupine or Kirkland Lake, such as welding and heavy equipment mechanic.

Other challenges are the sheer number of programs being offered, as well as obtaining qualified trainers due to the present labour shortage. Despite the few snags, Mack says the training provides opportunities that weren't there before, and a potentially long-lasting impact on the coastal communities.



Northern Ontario Business
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Author:Larmour, Adelle
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Previous Article:St. Andrew positioned for mid-tier status.
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