Mine training group loses main funder

Everyone anticipates a busy mining season. But just as it starts to get underway, the main organization helping to ensure Yukoners are included in the frenzy has lost its biggest funder.

Everyone anticipates a busy mining season.

But just as it starts to get underway, the main organization helping to ensure Yukoners are included in the frenzy has lost its biggest funder.

Up until now, the Yukon Mine Training Association has received most of its money from the federal Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership program.

But that program ended on March 31.

The territory’s mine training association has trained more than 1,069 applicants since the federal program started funding it in 2008, said Sascha Weber, YMTA executive director.

More than half of those graduates have gone on to well-paying jobs in the mining sector and other industries, doing everything from administrative work to heavy-duty mechanics.

To do their work, the association needs about $3.5 million per year, said Weber.

“And the biggest chunk of that was from the ASEP,” he said.

The aboriginal skills program was launched in 2003 with $85 million for five years.

It has been used to fund programs all across the country, like mine training associations in the N.W.T., northern B.C. and the Yukon.

In 2007, a year before the program was set to end, the federal government invested another $105 million. Two years later, Canada’s Economic Action Plan put another $100 million into the project.

Early in 2011, it was announced that ASEP would “sunset” at the end of March 2012.

And that’s a shame, said Ramsey Hart, program co-ordinator for MiningWatch Canada.

The program was well-used and well-liked, especially in the North, he said in a recent interview.

Groups like the Yukon Mine Training Association, and its mirror organizations in the N.W.T. and northern B.C., appreciated that they had the final say on how the money was spent, which assured that the programs suited the communities and their needs, said Hart.

There are now two other, similar options available, he said.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has another program, Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy, but it is for individuals to get money to enter skill training already being offered. It’s not available to organizations like YMTA to be able to offer that training.

And in 2010, Ottawa started the Skills and Partnership Fund.

This is the “replacement” for ASEP, but even after Hart’s office sent inquiries for more information, they still aren’t sure what the fund does or how it works, he said.

“It’s much broader,” Weber said of the replacement fund. “So it’s a little more competitive.”

The YMTA knew the federal program was going to end so this news doesn’t come as a surprise, said Weber.

The association has already secured next year’s funding from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Northern Strategy Trust, he said.

“We’re going to revise the service and program structure that we offer based on future funding,” he said.

The money that came from the old program was specifically for aboriginal people, said Weber.

Since the program gave YMTA the majority of its funding – $9.2 million over three years – a major focus of the YMTA’s work was for Yukon First Nation people.

But Weber doesn’t sound nervous.

“We were here before ASEP and we’ll be here after,” he said.

The association was established in 2006. With the mining industry booming in the territory, the training association will have lots of work ahead of it. Hopefully the industry and the territory will pitch in more in the upcoming years, said Weber.

“If you look at the potential for mine development, if any of those projects go forward, there’s a large number of employees required,” said Weber.

“Our role is that if there are those employment opportunities, and also business opportunities, then it should be locals getting the first chance to tap into those benefits and opportunities,” he said.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at