Area First Nations people ready for a career in any one of a number of promising industrial projects in the region now have the assistance of a training agency.
The B.C. Aboriginal Mine Training Association (BCAMTA) officially opened its Lakelse Ave. offices Feb. 7.
Its function is to guide and support aboriginal people toward employment in the mining and exploration sectors.
“Terrace is the hub of many developments slated to progress in the Northwest,” explained Tony Harris, BC AMTA northwest operations manager who lives in Smithers.
“Most importantly there’s a large and latent workforce yet to be developed here of our aboriginal friends and neighbours. That’s why I am here.
“There’s a reality of the shortage of skilled labour across the north and most importantly the recognition by industry, government, and society in general that we have to seriously consider the rights and titles of our First Nations and include them in developing business and employment opportunities that might become available,” said Harris.
He told industry representatives who attended the office opening to consider BCAMTA as an extension of their human resources departments.
Programs offered through BCAMTA include basic literacy and numeracy to life skills and job readiness.
Industry presence included reps from Geotech Drilling Services in Prince George and Driftwood Diamond Drilling in Smithers.
Vice president of operations for the proposed Avanti Molybdenum mine in Kitsault, Jeff Lowe, was also in attendance, promoting his company’s vision of local hiring. Approval for its project involved a local hire commitment.
“BCAMTA is giving us a more direct link to the skills that match up with what we need. They won’t provide our full training program, but it will be the first step in matching us up with the skills we are looking for, for processing, equipment operation and technical skills around environmental monitoring, engineering and other support activities. If we can find them locally it will give us a more stable workforce,” said Lowe.
According to Michelle Nahanee, manager of marketing and communications for BCAMTA, in kind donations like training simulators from Northwest Community College that were on display during the office opening, make up a large part of the operations overhead.
BCAMTA finds value in striking relationships with institutions such as Northwest Community College, she said.
The federal government’s Skills Partnership Fund gives the BCAMTA 60 per cent of the money it needs and the rest comes from partnerships with industry in the form of direct financing and in kind donations.
Since its start in 2010, 2,300 aboriginal people have signed up for BCAMTA training. Of that number, 700 have found work in 150 companies.
The first BCAMTA office opened in Kamloops in 2010.
Terrace isn’t BCAMTA’s first office in the region. A satellite office was opened in New Aiyansh in 2013.
So far 120 people have signed up in the Northwest and eight have since been hired.
Nahanee said that the goal is to have hundreds of aboriginal people enroll for training through the association in the Northwest to benefit from the long term guidance and training being offered.
City councillor Marylin Davies also spoke at the opening, saying that she hoped that having local aboriginals in the mining industry would help ensure responsible stewardship of resources and that future generations are sustained.
“You have a wonderful sense of home, which I am afraid the white community does not usually have. We are going to have a core group ‘home’ people who understand how important it is to protect what we have been given in this wonderful land,” said Davies.
The program website acknowledges that skills in the mining and exploration sectors can also be transferred to other industries.