Front: WFN public works supervisor Alfred Alexander, (left to right) ASTTBC John Coward, OTDC/OKIB Director Val Chiba, OTDC/OKIB Director Cindy Brewer, OTDC Employment Services Deb Bob, OTDC project coordinator Brenden Moore, OTDC program manager Karen Abramsen, WFN superintendent of utilities and First Nations Careers Council vice chair Dawn McGrath, WFN Coun. Thomas Konek and WFN Director of Development Services Joe Mocilac stand outside the WFN Council Friday for the soft release of the new public works technician program. - Credit: Carli Berry/Capital News

Indigenous workers to train for certification

West Kelowna - A WFN project allows Indigenous people from B.C. to get training and certification

Indigenous community members are adding to their hands-on experience with official certification.

A new pilot project is allowing First Nations to get their public works technician training and certification through the Westbank First Nation and its partners.

Fifteen individuals will be selected for the program, which is held on WFN land. The program is open for First Nations, but is not limited to WFN members.

According to Indigenous public works coordinator Brenden Moore, the program enables Indigenous technicians to work anywhere in B.C., whether it’s the City of Kelowna, West Kelowna, or outside of the Okanagan.

“We’re actually going to be able to certify people, they’re going to have career choices available to them and job security,” he said.

The group-based workshops will also allow for more self sufficiency within Indigenous communities as they can rely on their own people, he said.

“In the fall of 2016, WFN was approached by the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) and the First Nations Careers Council to support an application to pursue funding via the Employment and Social Development Canada’s Skills and Partnership Funding Program,” according to an Okanagan Training and Development Council release.

In 2013, ASTTBC’s public works training for Indigenous communities study was completed and identified the need for formal training in the public works sector across B.C., according to the release.

“In taking a look in how we were going to structure the curriculum…we were able to blend a model that would start addressing and enhancing the standardization of certification which was lacking for a lot of our communities,” said WFN superintendent of utilities and First Nations Careers Council vice chair Dawn McGrath.

“A lot of these folks have the capabilities… (but) there’s folks who don’t have the so-called standard structured post secondary education so this can bridge into that world.”

McGrath said “we’ve also taken a look at how to enhance the capacity of new individuals coming forward whether it’s a single mom finding daycare needs or transportation. What is the best model we can put together to overcome some of these burdens?”

The project is a hybrid model, focusing on the hands-on skill sets a lot of Indigenous peoples have, she said.

“They may not be so theory based, but they know how to do the work through teaching so we want to implement that model and assist in our culture practices as well.”

The goal of the project is to have 80 per cent of participants find employment in public works positions and/or return to school, according to a project overview. Participants will also get on-the-job work experience and job placement support.

The project had its soft launch July 28 at the WFN Council. Training starts at the end of September.

Applications are now being accepted for the project. To get involved email Moore at IPWcoordinator@gmail.com.