Ottawa announces job training plan for aboriginals

Jessie Dawson welcomes the $9.3 million Ottawa is spending to create 500 industrial training spots for aboriginals.

Jessie Dawson welcomes the $9.3 million Ottawa is spending to create 500 industrial training spots for aboriginals.

But the Kwanlin Dun First Nation councillor hopes the Yukon’s swelling mining industry doesn’t bring major social ills with it.

“These impacts affect our way of life,” said Dawson.

Her comments prefaced an announcement that Ottawa will contribute $9.3 million to a five-year, $17-million Yukon training initiative.

The Partnership, People, Production: Get Into It program will train about 500 aboriginal people over five years for long-term jobs in the mining industry.

“Employers are hard-pressed to find skills and talent to make enterprises successful,” said Intergovernmental Affair Minister Rona Ambrose, who made the announcement Tuesday.

The program is part of Ottawa’s Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership initiative created in 2003.

Almost 9,000 jobs — 6,500 of them permanent — will be created by the initiative, said Ambrose.

The creation of long-term jobs is key to success of the program, said Dawson.

In an industry that is hit hard by boom-and-bust cycles, jobs can quickly disappear.

Families are broken up as jobs are found further from home, and high unemployment creates a host of social problems, she said.

“The training program is for the mining industry, but the skills learned are highly transferable,” said Bill Dunn, chair of the Yukon Mining Training Association.

Skills learned can be employed in other industries such as oil and gas, he said.

And training for chefs and administrative jobs can be used is countless areas, he added.

The association is running the program, which receives funding from Ottawa, the territory and industry partners.

Mining industry executives and watchers say they believe mining in the Yukon is poised for a big comeback.

That could keep people employed for a long time.

The Yukon’s mining industry in on the verge of revitalization, said Alexco Resources vice-president Rob McIntyre.

“In my 30 years, I’ve never it so close to a long-term, stable industry,” he said.

“First Nations people are not transient. They’ll be here for a very long time.”

Because of the growing exploration and extraction, the program will be a huge boon to the local economy, said Premier Dennis Fentie.

“This is a very timely investment and compliments the directions of the Yukon,” he said.

The copper mine at Minto has been successful attracting First Nation labour with training programs, said Dunn.

About 30 people onsite are from the Selkirk First Nation and another 30 from other First Nations.

“People are trained onsite, and then when the training is finished there’s a job you step into,” he said.

With more youth graduating from high school than in the past, First Nations are poised to take advantage of training opportunities, said Ta’an Kwach’an deputy chief Gail Anderson.

It is better to employ locals than migrant workers, she said.

“A lot of money left our economy last time,” said Anderson.

“If we train aboriginal workers, then more money will stay in the Yukon.”

The program focuses on five aspects: planning and implementation, site-specific training, onsite training, community and capacity development and administration.

Contact Jeremy Warren at jeremyw@yukon-news.com