Outland Camps is becoming recognized as a national leader for their six-week live-in summer work experience program supporting Aboriginal youth.
Dave Bradley, regional manager for their Thunder Bay office, has been invited to British Columbia to present the program model.
“Outland Camps is well known for our contracting experience in a wide range of services to the natural resources management sector and for our experience delivering employment and training programs, and we have such an enormous opportunity to play a positive role with First Nation communities as they build capacity to make informed decisions about and participate in the economic opportunities emerging around them, ” Bradley said.
Partnered with Confederation College, the company has facilitated the First Nations Natural Resources Youth Employment Program for 14 years. The program is aimed at students aged 16-19 who are individually selected by their band to spend six weeks living and working at Outland’s remote camp. Currently, the program operates out of one camp near Upsala in northwestern Ontario.
“It’s far from your typical summer job,” said Bradley. “It also teaches students life skills; they learn about diet and nutrition, sleep, the importance of routine in school and at work and living away from home. They form incredible friendships in a short time and learn about teamwork. You can actually see how the experience changes the youths’ outlook toward work and education.”
Bradley said the live-in camp allows participants to be away from the day-today pressures of home and allows them to “flourish in a safe, predictable environment.
“We see them become proud of their accomplishments and gain a very positive mental outlook.”
The camp experience serves as great practice for eventual employment opportunities in the resource sector operating in remote locations.
Each summer about 30 students from both fly-in and road access communities participate. Over the years, a total of 296 First Nation youth from across Northern Ontario have completed the program. It earns them two high school credits toward their secondary school diplomas.
Youth from 46 First Nations have participated over the years, including 18 communities this year.
Overall, the program boasts a 94 per cent completion rate.
Principal Mary Gardiner of Simon Jacob Memorial Education Centre in the remote community of Webequie says the program is having a positive impact on students.
“Learning goes beyond the classroom and connects students to the environment.
One student who was involved in the summer work experience commented that this program should be run throughout the school year as a cooperative education option.
This type of program provides a valuable ‘hands-on’ application that benefits students from a holistic perspective.”
Partnerships from the public and private sector have always been key to sustaining the program. However, securing annual funding is an ongoing challenge.
Originally funded directly by forestry companies, it now relies heavily and primarily on core government funding.
The Ontario government covers approximately 50 per cent of the program costs with the balance from federal programs, First Nations, industry and commercial partners.
“Even after 14 years of operation, funding year-to-year is not guaranteed as government and industry watch their dollars closely,” Bradley said. “We are at the end of a three year commitment of funding by the Ontario government, and are very hopeful their support will continue.”
Dave Archibald, program coordinator in Confederation College's forestry department in Thunder Bay, said the college got involved to expand its outreach to promote natural resources management programming to First Nations youth. Over the years the program has expanded to include the mining sector as a key focus.
Today, Outland continues to deliver and staff the program along with support from the college, Long Lake 58 Education Authority, the Superior Greenstone District School Board, Resolute, Domtar, Tembec, Aditya Birla, Goldcorp, Cliffs Natural Resources, Stillwater Mining, Osisko and Noront.
The program managers continue to seek both industry and commercial partners.
Bradley says it is important that the natural resource sector give back in a significant and meaningful way in order to build tomorrow’s workforce and to break down the barriers that impede the advancement of First Nations youth into the mainstream economy.
Graduates of the program have gone on to pursue wide-ranging career paths in politics, industry, health care, education, technology, retail, communications and the arts.
“Eventually all of these youth will be voters, council members and leaders. This experience helps them become aware of key topics currently affecting their communities,” Bradley said. “We help them learn first-hand about natural resources management and some of the major issues. We encourage youth to participate and possibly even be inspired to take on leadership roles with respect to the forests and environment around them. Also, to help communities find that balance between protecting their lands and allowing development which will produce economic benefits for communities and individuals.”