The program was pilot tested over the course of 2010 and early 2011 by Anishinabek Employment and Training Services (AETS) in Thunder Bay, Northwest Community College (NWCC) in Hazelton, British Colombia, and Anishinaabeg of Kabapikotawangag Resource Council (AKRC) in Kenora. Thirty-five students participated.
Of the students participating, 22 graduated and two have already gained employment within the industry.
“We saw people come out of their shells,” said MiHR Council director of attraction, retention and transition Melanie Sturk. “It was amazing. We were extremely pleased with the pilot. There were two graduates who had a 100 per cent attendance record. The pilots with strong community relationships and strong linkages to industry really shined. In terms of what was learned, there was a lot of growth. We evaluated the program at six weeks and 12 weeks, and everybody involved had the opportunity for an interview. What we found was not only were students learning about the industry, but they were also gaining confidence in their own skills and themselves. We had 22 graduates who are excited about their options and two of them have already been hired. A lot of graduates have gone on to receive further education and training. We are pleased because the ultimate goal was to get people employed. This will help companies in the future.”
The program was developed after MiHR’s 2009 needs assessment revealed national interest in an essential skills program to develop skilled workers to help replace the 100,000 workers within the industry due for retirement over the next 10 years.
It’s a win-win situation, Sturk said. “For Aboriginal people, it’s a positive impact as they gain skills and confidence and it spins out into the families and communities and economic prosperity. It gives Aboriginal youth more hope for the future. In industry, we want to see another impact made. There is little diversity, but it is getting better. This is one step toward creating workplace diversity and helping industry manage the huge skilled labour shortage coming its way.”
During the 12-week program, students had to learn and demonstrate the value of health and safety, adaptability, numeracy, computer and communication skills, and knowledge of the mining sector.
The program utilized teaching methods through manuals and also used a variety of traditional First Nation approaches such as story telling or imagery to get points across. Half of the program was delivered in a classroom and the other half provided first-hand experience at mine sites.
“What stood out was the interest among the Aboriginal population to gain the skills necessary to work in the sector,” said John DeGiacomo, project officer with Anishinabek Employment and Training Services. “There hasn’t been a program available to help this group get to the point they need to be at to gain employment. This program fills the gap. It provides them with the steps they need to build the skills to get entry-level jobs.
Industry was integral to the success of the program. Barrick Gold Corporation’s Hemlo operations provided the opportunity for students to gain experience in 10 different departments for a total of four weeks. They received instruction in theory as well as practical experience and with that, they also became certified in common core. This program is polished and a benefit to First Nations people. In small steps, it will make a difference. We have two graduates working in the sector. It means there is an understanding these folks can make a difference, and I suspect all graduates will be working in the sector within a few months.”
Aboriginal leaders have also endorsed the program.
“We need First Nation specific training such as Mining Essentials to ensure that all people, including Inuit and Metis, receive the necessary skills to enter the workforce. Not only will our families prosper, but Canada’s social and economic fabric will be stronger,” said National Chief Shawn Atleo.
The MiHR Council is looking for support to refine the program and hopes to have more training sites identified by June.