A first class of 18 students is already underway at Kitselas as part of a $1.2 million program to train northwestern aboriginals for mostly entry level jobs.
The class is to last for 10 weeks after which students will be given coaching and help in finding jobs, says an official from the Merritt-based Nicola Valley Institute of Technology which has the contract to provide the training and assistance.
Similar classes will be held at Kitsumkalum and at locations on the north coast financed with $600,000 from the province and equally matched by LNG proponents BG Canada, LNG Canada and Pacific NorthWest LNG.
“This is about job readiness,” said John Chenoweth, Dean of the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology of the goal of training as many as 192 people from the Terrace area and the north coast by the end of the year.
“Upon completion of practical experience of two weeks, the aim is to move everyone into employment, to jump into the economy,” said Chenoweth.
Although half-financed by LNG proponents, Chenoweth noted that such projects are some years away and that training isn’t necessarily for employment in that sector.
“We could be looking at labourer jobs and the service industry,” he said.
Nicola Valley is a post secondary institution aimed at people aged 18 and over and the Kitselas class has people from that age up to 60, Chenoweth added.
“The students have a very strong desire to join the economy and to make a change in their life,” he said.
The 10-week classroom session takes in computer training, math skills, occupational first aid, fire suppression and construction safety training.
Aside from Kitselas and Kitsumkalum, students from Lax Kw’alaams, Gitxaala, Metlakatla and Gitga’at on the north coast will take part.
Formed as a private facility in 1983, the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology gained standing as a provincial institute in 1995 on the same level as community colleges.
Its specific focus is aboriginal education and training which is why it was asked by the province to run the jobs program, said Chenoweth.
“We were approached by the communities,” he added.
And while the institute might be based in Merritt, as much as 30 per cent of its programs take place in aboriginal communities throughout the province, Chenoweth said.
The jobs program is officially called Pathways to Success and comes under the province’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint initiative.
A statement from the province’s aboriginal relations and reconciliation ministry indicated the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology was chosen based on discussions with the LNG proponents providing half of the money for the training in Prince Rupert and in Terrace and with participating First Nations.
The money covers instructors, job placement mentors, administration, supplies, travel, student aid and student assessments.