November 2008

Yukon's aboriginal peoples "Get Into It"

A Government of Canada initiative opens up opportunities in the mining industry

By M. Kerawala

The simplest principles often translate into the most far-reaching actions. And what could be simpler than the premise that an educated workforce is an empowered one? This is the principle on which the Government of Canada’s Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP) was founded. The idea is to empower First Nations peoples to fully participate in and benefit from Canada’s economy. The ambitious $190 million undertaking will provide training to 16,000 aboriginal people and give them access to 10,000 new local jobs.

Because few sectors of our economy are as vibrant as the mining industry, it is a major focus of the partnership. In July 2008, a new initiative was announced that will help Yukon’s aboriginal people to secure lucrative long-term employment in the mining industry. The project, entitled “Partnership, People, Production: Get Into It,” will be run by the Yukon Mine Training Association (YMTA). Investment by the Government of Canada in this new ASEP project, initially pegged at $9.3 million, could reach $19 million over the next five years.

Established with funds contributed by the Government of Yukon and the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the YMTA was formed in 2006 by a committee that included Yukon First Nations chiefs and mining industry leaders. Its objective is to increase employment and opportunities in the mining sector, help attract and retain aboriginal workers, and facilitate safety and industrial skills training. Its first programs were launched in 2007 and since then, YMTA has secured additional funding through the Worker’s Compensation Board, Northern Strategies, and the Targeted Investment Program.

The Get Into It project, which the YMTA will administer, rests on five major pillars, each constituting a stage of project delivery. The first pillar, Planning and Implementation, will involve research and needs assessments for both training and jobs for First Nations people. The second pillar, Employment and Job-specific Training, consists of community-based and site-specific training. The YMTA will promote pre-apprenticeship opportunities and create trades training openings. During the third pillar phase, On-the-Job-Training, participants will receive onsite training. Industry partners will be offered a scaled-wage subsidy. The fourth pillar, Community Support and Capacity Development, will deliver career counselling and generate awareness of the long-term benefits of acquiring mining industry-related skills. The fifth pillar, Administration, will focus on managing the enterprise and recording data that could inform future developmental programs.

“This is a very exciting development for YMTA, industry and First Nations,” said YMTA chairman Bill Dunn, speaking at the launch of the project. “The resource industries are on the rise in Yukon, and they require a lot of skilled labour. We want to ensure that Yukon’s First Nations people will be ready to actively participate.” Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie added: “The Yukon government is committed to building a skilled and adaptable work force that meets the needs of Yukon’s growing economy. We’re pleased with the investment… as it will complement the work completed by the Yukon government and the Yukon Mine Training Association to date.”

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