Construction boot camp teaches essential skills to Aboriginal Peoples

Partnership program in British Columbia leads to variety of clean energy sector jobs
By Linden Pinay
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 12/02/2013

When employers go into remote and isolated communities, they should look at the local labour force and support local job creation. That is the situation in a small, remote area north of Whistler, B.C. The only communities in the area are First Nations who had reserve status established in the early 1900s.

The energy sector provides an economic advantage for British Columbia and is a key driver of the economy, creating family-supporting jobs, investment and government revenue in rural and First Nations communities throughout the province.

Demand for skilled construction and operations workers in the clean energy sector is growing, with more than 60 clean energy projects operating in B.C. today. Each of these projects has strong collaborations with First Nations that include jobs, procurement and capacity development.

Innergex Renewable Energy is one company currently working with local First Nations groups to support the construction of three new clean energy projects. The company is committed to working with local communities to identify workers who have an interest in construction opportunities, including heavy equipment operators, drillers, truck drivers, carpenters, cooks and housekeepers, civil engineers and field technicians.

Local First Nations communities are responding to the challenges and opportunities through a partnership with Capilano University in North Vancouver and the Aboriginal Skills Group of Greater Vancouver, a non-profit society that was involved in construction career training for the 2010 Winter Olympics, clean energy careers and supply chain career initiatives related to the Asia-Pacific gateway corridor.

Since 2008, the Aboriginal Skills Group has worked with the Industry Training Authority of B.C. to provide occupational assessments for all jobs related to clean energy careers and run-of-the-river hydro projects. Carpenters, heavy equipment operators, safety officers and environmental technicians are all occupations profiled through essential skills. The service helps individuals decide whether they have the skills to pursue specific job opportunities and once certified, they have a greater chance of succeeding in the chosen job.

Employers need skilled workers and together these agencies have developed an essential skills boot camp for construction sector jobs, based on a nationally successful model developed by the Aboriginal Skills Group.

Essential skills are those skills recognized by the federal and provincial governments as critical for the workplace. Nine essential skills — reading, document use, numeracy, writing, oral communications, thinking skills, working with others and continued learning — provide the foundation for continued studies, whether in the trades or through advanced education.

The Aboriginal Skills Group’s Essential Skills 3G platform is an assessment tool managed with the guidance of a trainer who uses a combination of online and in-person activities to assess several essential skills. The result is instant and a report is generated with a profile of each essential skill.

In Pemberton, B.C., a group of Aboriginal youth is participating in the construction careers boot camp project to meet local demand for new workers. Since June 2013, 50 young people have completed the boot camp and its success has led to another boot camp to be located in Lilloett, B.C., beginning in January 2014.

This six-week program leads to essential skills and basic safety certification, and provides employers with a work-ready individual who understands her job opportunities.

More than 100 people will benefit from this unique partnership project and learn about job skills and job opportunities. Most will gain employment or have access to continuing studies and further skills training. Some graduates are already training for careers as heavy equipment operators, tradespeople and environmental technicians.

Linden Pinay is executive director of the Aboriginal Skills Group in North Vancouver. For more information, visit www.aboriginalskills.ca.

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