OnTrack promotional photo showing a Tahltan worker at a mine site. (Submitted Photo/Tahltan Central Government)

Tahltan Central Government in northern B.C. launching new skills database

OnTrack Skills Inventory will link Tahltan members with jobs in the territory

The Tahltan Central Government (TCG) is launching a resource to help connect members with jobs inside Tahltan territory. Members can register an online profile in the OnTrack Skills Inventory, a database with current job opportunities.

“One of the main reasons we created it was to help people understand the opportunities that are available to them and which ones they are qualified for, and if they have a particular occupation in mind it will help them understand the numeracy, document use and reading skills they need,” said Freda Campbell, TCG education and training director.

One innovative feature of OnTrack is that it takes into account skills that many Tahltans have by virtue of living in the north.

“I’ve found that people who live in the north have a high essential skill level because basically we have to fix things ourselves,” said Campbell.

Plumbing, repairing vehicles and traditional activities like hunting, trapping and guiding also require a high essential skill level.

“Basically by living in the north you will develop a higher essential skill level than somebody who doesn’t have to do those things,” said Campbell.

“We are encouraging employers to use essential skill levels in hiring decisions so if someone has the essential skill level to be a millwright apprentice then we are encouraging employers to use that instead of a grade 12, so we might have somebody who didn’t graduate but developed those skills somewhere else and has the skill level to be successful in an apprenticeship.”

When a mining company begins to reach the end of their exploration phase on Tahltan territory and starts planning for mineral extraction, the company and TCG negotiate an Impact Benefit Agreement (IBA). Those are negotiated separately with each company, but they usually contain a clause compelling the company to try to hire Tahltan workers.

The TCG has IBAs for the the Red Chris and Brucejack mines, and are in the process of negotiating an agreement with the Silvertip project. There is also an IBA signed by the TCG and Seabridge Gold, despite the fact their project is in the exploration phase.

Kody Penner, TCG employment director, said that the TCG has a good working relationship with mining companies in the territory.

“All the companies are fantastic with communicating with us, they send me any new jobs postings that they have, all of them, we post them, we have OnTrack moving forward so it’s a really good relationship with basically all the contractors and companies that work within the territory.”

OnTrack provides a direct link between members and jobs, which would make it easier for companies to fulfill their IBAs.

While the mining industry is the largest employer in Tahltan territory, Penner thinks that OnTrack will connect members with the many different types of jobs available in the industry, even if they aren’t interested in the mineral extraction side of the business.

“One thing that I am trying to communicate and I want to get through with OnTrack is the array of jobs available to people,” he said.

“There’s so many different jobs that are available to people in the mine industry, maybe you want to be an accountant or get into human resources, or get into safety or the environment, you don’t necessarily have to go in and blow up rock, you can live out your passion by using mining as the vehicle for it.”

Penner said that 80 per cent of Tahltans live outside the territory and in the past it was common for members to leave to pursue education or career opportunities not readily available locally.

OnTrack, coupled with other programs, aims to give members the opportunity to receive the training and education they need in Tahltan territory. For example, if a Tahltan member’s essential skill levels are not where they need to be for a specific job, there are links in OnTrack they can use to improve their skills.

The TCG offers boot camps and training programs that will be linked to OnTrack. Also, the TCG is participating in a pilot program with Coast Mountain College and Contact North, an online curriculum provider originally established by the Ontario government. Contact North has decades of experience delivering curriculum to Indigenous and remote communities.

Campbell said that Contact North takes curriculum and adapts it to specific community needs, including a mix of online, in-class and elder education. That gives Tahltan members options to learn in the territory instead of travelling to an institution elsewhere.

The OnTrack database is not fully filled yet. The TCG is working out some bugs and is focused on having employers enter information first so that when Tahltans register, the site is already populated with jobs.

OnTrack was set to be rolled out in March, but that was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Campbell also said that the atmosphere was less than ideal to unveil the database because people were concerned about contracting COVID-19 while working at mining sites and then bringing the virus back into their communities.

An 18-month TCG marketing strategy to promote OnTrack will be starting soon, mostly over email, newsletters, Facebook and the TCG website. There will be some face-to-face promotion within the territory in the communities of Dease Lake, Telegraph Creek, Iskut and likely Lower Post.

The Tahltan Central Government is the administrative governing body of the Tahltan Nation and the representative of the Tahltan Nation with respect to inherent Aboriginal title and rights. The Iskut Band and Tahltan Band govern Tahltan interests in relation to the Indian Act.

Tahltan territory spans nearly 96,000 square kilometres in B.C.’s northwest, close to 11 per cent of the province’s total area. According to the TCG, the territory is home to approximately 41 per cent of B.C.’s exploration activities by expenditure, and around 70 per cent of the province’s resource-rich ‘Golden Triangle’.

READ MORE: Tahltan stay the course, ask non-resident hunters to keep out of traditional territory


@BenBogstie
ben.bogstie@terracestandard.com

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