Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 7: Education (6-12)

Indigenous employment centre receives ‘life-changing’ cash from feds

March 11, 2024

APTN News: An organization in Vancouver says it will be able to expand its programming for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in British Columbia after a $21 million boost from the federal government.

“[There are] approximately 70,000 urban Indigenous people in the Vancouver area, we do a lot of trades training,” said Lynn White, chief executive officer of Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society, or ACCESS as it’s known.

“It’s life-transforming. We have students who have gone on to open their own businesses, they are instructors with our programs, and have become certified in their trades.”

On March 7, Randy Boissonault, federal minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages, announced $195 million for 25 projects through the Skills and Partnership Fund.

“Everyone benefits when Indigenous people are provided with the opportunities they need to fully participate in the workforce,” said Boissonault. “The Skills and Partnership Fund empowers more Indigenous people with the training and resources they need to shape their own career path.”

With this money, White said ACCESS will be able to host 12 trade programs rather than the three or four they have run in past years.

“Last year we put through 64 electricians, 24 per cent of whom were women,” White told APTN News.

According to the organization’s website, “ACCESS is one of the most comprehensive Indigenous training providers in Canada. It provides a variety of employment and training programs and services. Through a modern blend of interdisciplinary programs across industry sectors, ACCESS is dedicated to supporting urban Indigenous people in overcoming employment barriers and finding rewarding career opportunities.”

White said ACCESS pays for training for anything from the construction sector to makeup applications.

“We are actually responsible for 49 per cent of the Indigenous tradespeople who have gone through training in B.C.”

According to a press release from Boissonault’s office, “The Skills and Partnership Fund is a project-based program supporting partnerships between Indigenous organizations and employers to provide targeted skills training for Indigenous people for in-demand jobs at the local, regional and national level.

“It is one of two complementary Indigenous labour market programs delivered by Employment and Social Development Canada, the other one being the distinctions-based Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program.”

The money, White said, will also help people get what is called a Red Seal certificate. It’s when a tradesperson has passed several levels of training and is certified to work across the country.

“It takes four years to get your Red Seal,” said White. “Our programs attach them to a job coach whose job it is to remove any barriers. By the time they graduate from our programs, they are getting hired right out of graduation.”

“ACCESS training changed my life. I moved to B.C. with two hundred dollars in my pocket in 2016,” said former student Joshua Sage Eyolfson, in a testimonial on the ACCESS website.

“Through the creator’s guidance, I ended up where I was needed. I’m now a red seal metal fabricator. programs like this should exist nationally from coast to coast.”

According to Statistics Canada, “Barriers to education and the workforce can include, but are not limited to, inadequate financial resources or funding, the lack of culturally relevant curriculum, a lack of confidence or feelings of unpreparedness, having personal or family responsibilities, experiences of racism and discrimination, and the effects of intergenerational trauma associated with residential schools.”

White said the organization understands those challenges.

“We meet people where they’re at. So, if someone comes to us and they don’t know what they want to do or they don’t have the basics foundations to enter the program they want to take, we meet them there and help get them on track for success,” said White.

According to the government, the other organisations that received money include, IndigiTECH, Labrador Aboriginal Training Program and the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, Career Set Sail and K5T, to name a few.

According to Statistics Canada, just under half, 49.2 per cent, of Indigenous people had completed post-secondary qualification in 2021.

“First Nations people, Métis and Inuit are more likely to live in certain regions, which can impact their participation in both education and the labour market,” said Statistics Canada in a report from October 2023.

Employment rates among Indigenous adults in 2021 were lower when compared with the non-Indigenous population. 61.2 per cent and 74.1 per cent.

In a news release, Shannin Metatawabin, chief executive officer of the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association said more work is needed.

“Let us remember that our work is far from over. The need to support and nurture these programs remains as pressing as ever,” she said in the statement. “Together, let us continue to champion initiatives that empower women and youth, creating a brighter, more inclusive future for all.”

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