Sudbury's Gezhtoojig Training and Employment is finding success basing their programs on industry demand.
The Aboriginal employment organization is celebrating jobs landed from their Line Crew Ground Support Program as the program heads into its final two sessions in 2017.
“We developed this partnership the right way,” said Ron Sarazin, the special projects coordinator at Gezhtoojig. “We aligned training to meet the needs of industry partners.”
Since starting in 2014, they've seen over 110 students graduate.
Sarazin said that they've been able to get 70 per cent of the graduates working in the industry thanks to industry partners like southern Ontario's Electrical Power and Transmission Construction (EPTCON), and Hydro One.
The program is a partnership with Cambrian College. It was made possible by the Ontario Government Youth Skills Connections Program, as part of the Ontario Youth Job Strategy.
It prepares participants for entry-level jobs in the power line and construction industries. It combines practical training with in-class sessions in the intensive 15-week course.
“We were looking for the value – the bang for our buck,” Sarazin said.
And graduates are getting it.
Mike Jocko graduated from the program in September 2015, and within days he was hired on at EPTCON.
He spent the next few months building substations near Goderich and Kincardine, west of Toronto. He said one benefit of the program is that it lets people discover new places as they train and work.
“I believe it's really awesome, some of the people who took the program came from as far as Moose Factory down to as far as Ottawa to Sarnia area, it's all across Ontario, not just specifically here in Ontario,” said Jocko. “I find it really amazing that it gives people a chance to explore Ontario, Canada, and the world.”
He said that Gezhtoojig helped him after graduation too.
“They didn't leave us out in the cold when they were done with us, they keep in touch and help us find jobs,” said Jocko, who still talks to Sarazin regularly.
Since partnering with Gezhtoojig, EPTCON has hired eight graduates from the program. Four have progressed into apprenticeship positions.
Their manager of special projects, Graeme Aitken, said they will take more from the final two intakes. As part of their partnership, EPTCON committed to hiring 50 per cent First Nation for their entry-level roles.
“Their motto since I've partnered with them has been 'First Nations, first choice,” said Sarazin. Aitken said for them, it just makes business sense.
“What's being produced here is work ready, highly skilled, eager, hungry, young people,” said Aitken. “Whether you're a high voltage contractor, whether you're a line contractor, or you're a manufacturer, they come out with this myriad of certificates, they have all of the safety training.
“If employers knew about them, there would be very little of them left for anyone.”
Hydro One understood that too, and Sarazin said they've taken on at least three apprentices from the program.
Sarazin said some companies only hire a quota of First Nations employees if it's required, but that companies like their partners are “doing it right. The proper way is to start the engagement early."
He said companies are approaching Gezhtoojig more frequently to plan ahead for staffing future projects, and he thinks it’s a positive trend.
As Gezhtoojig's line crew ground support program wraps up, they're once again anticipating industry need and looking at transportation training with a similar set up.
“We want to try another industry now – it's the transportation industry that is going to need people,” said Sarazin.