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Aboriginal mining careers promoted in training portal

Aboriginal youth in northwestern Ontario are getting a head-start on training opportunities in the mining industry.
Bending Lake
An introductory mining literacy project in Thunder Bay hopes to steer First Nation youth into careers in the growing minerals sector field.

Aboriginal youth in northwestern Ontario are getting a head-start on training opportunities in the mining industry.

Oshki-Pimanche-O-Win Education and Training Institute is receiving more than $700,000 from Ottawa and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada to inform and steer young people in the 16-to-29 age range toward careers in the minerals sector.

A project called Learning 2 Mine will provide training and work experiences in the industry for Aboriginal youth in Northern Ontario. The project will focus on increasing “mining literacy” and training them in essential skills.

Gordon Kakegamic, Oshki-Pimanche-O-Win's e-learning coordinator, said the first part of this two-phase project is a sort of Mining 101 course, giving young people some fundamental knowledge of this industry sector.

“Mining literacy, we define as the knowledge that youth need to make an informed decision whether or not they want to pursue a job or career in the mining industry.”

That means knowledge about the mining processes and familiarity with the actual site and the various occupations. “They absorb and digest all this information and decide do they want to work in the mining industry?”

If they decide to pursue a career, the next step is a more hands-on mining essential skills course, that could include basic technical training, not just job shadowing.

Kakegamic said this comes in two delivery methods.

One is a total online course for youth who are disciplined enough to do self-directed learning.

He acknowledges not everyone can do that so the second option is a community-based outreach approach offered through a Sudbury community college.

“We're working with Cambrian College's SkyTech to use their mobile training trades trailer” which will go into the communities.

Kakegamic said the project is targeting 100 youth, split between 40 online and 60 through the community-based approach.

Webequie First Nation is the first community to take part.

Located 540 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, the remote and growing Ojibway community is the closest settlement to the emerging Ring of Fire chromite exploration camp.

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) chiefs recognize the enormous job potential this series of future mine developments can create for generations of First Nation young people.

“When you talk about the mining industry everything is so dispersed and far-reaching with (corporate) offices, regional offices, camps, mining sites, and for youth on-reserve, they have no front office (to learn about the industry).” said Kakegamic.

The delivery of a youth web portal, which will be launched this fall, “is a place where they go to get their foot in the industry.”

“We've partnered with Goldcorp and we're going into Musselwhite Mine (located 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay) this spring to interview some employees that are really interested in sharing their stories with youth.”

A video production crew will be hired to do the profiles.

Besides Cambrian College, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre is also assisting in this endeavour with Oshki-Pimanche-O-Win.

The partners hope to apply Google Streetmaps-type technology to deliver a virtual tour of a mine site to explore a development the same way one would tour the streets and buildings of a major city.

“When you hear talk about the mining industry, it's mostly from politicians and leaders, you don't hear the voice of youth. The portal will be the voice of youth with social media features,” said Kakegamic.

He is hopeful that as the project evolves Oshki-Pimache-O-Win can eventually delve into the actual skills training.

Oshki-Pimache-O-Win is an Aboriginal post-secondary education and training institute geared to members of the 49 communities of NAN in northwestern Ontario and the Far North.

Its third floor space at the former Toronto-Dominion building in Thunder Bay's south end doesn't provide enough room to do skills training for the mining industry.

“Our student numbers are exploding, we're running out of space and we're looking at a new facility,” said Kakegamic.

“We don't have the capacity to do the actual technical training, other than using the (Cambrian) trades trailer. That's something down the road; right now we want to focus on the fundamental knowledge and skills.”

The institution is funded, federally, through the Indian Studies Support Program and provincially, through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.