Orford Bay, Bute Inlet. The Homalco First Nations has invested grant money it received from WorkBC to offer tuition-free forestry trades program for Indigenous students at North Island College. (Homalco Wildlife and Cultural Tours/ Facebook )

Homalco First Nation invests $196,308 WorkBC grant in forestry courses for Indigenous students

The tuition-free forestry trade program at North Island College is a solution to combat high unemployment rates says Nation’s chief

Indigenous students can access a tuition-free forestry program at North College this fall, thanks to a WorkBC grant that was awarded to the Homalco First Nations.

The Coastal Forest Worker Certificate program starts on Oct. 5 and is being offered tuition-free to eligible students. It’s been made possible through a $196,308 grant offered by WorkBC’s Community Workforce Response Grant program.

This partnership between Homalco First Nation and North Island College will provide Indigenous students a first step into a wide range of entry-level forestry careers including assistant timber cruiser, compasser, forest field assistant, junior layout engineer and many more.

“This training program is a vital step for Homalco Nation in building capacity to participate in the local forest economy,” said Chief Darren Blaney.

“Our territory is home to diverse forest and plant species and balancing stewardship and economic values requires skilled people. I encourage our members to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Blaney.

According to Blaney, investing in skilled trades programs such as the forestry course is a solution to address the high unemployment rate in First Nations communities.

The Homalco Nation chief also said that there will be a demand for workers in the trades sector in the near future as the baby boomer generation retires.

The Nation is also looking to invest in other educative courses such as construction, radio and broadcast among others in the future, said Blaney.

Previously, Homalco Nation and North Island College collaborated on a hatchery operations certificate program which graduated 12 Indigenous students.

Five of the hatchery operations graduates are now working at Homalco Nations’ Orford Hatchery in salmon enhancement and guardianship roles.

Cheryl O’Connell, Dean, faculty of trades and technical programs for North Island College said that the school is thankful for another opportunity to work together.

“North Island College is honoured to be again collaborating with Homalco to serve the Nation’s education and economic development priorities,” said O’Connell.

Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction said that as the government wants to support people as they train and build the skills they need for good-paying, family-supporting jobs.

“This grant program will establish a skilled workforce and help people build meaningful careers for a stable and sustainable future,” said Simpson.

READ ALSO: Indigenous B.C. tour operator keeps culture alive through virtual journeys in COVID-19 era

READ ALSO: Homalco Nation purchases building at remote camp near Bute Inlet

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