The Cowichan Nation Alliance (CNA) has received at $1.49 million grant from the Future Skills Centre, (FSC), for the development of an Indigenous Employment Hub, (IEH), which will help meet labour needs for future infrastructure projects in B.C. and become a model for linking focused training to meaningful employment opportunities for Indigenous people.
CNA is comprised of Halalt First Nation, Cowichan Tribes, Penelakut Tribe, and Stz’uminus First Nation. The CNA was formed by a common litigation the respective nations are involved in with the B.C. provincial government over a land claim on the Fraser River called Tl’uqtinus. That common bond has led to cooperation on further opportunities.
The IEH was one of 30 projects to receive funding from the FSC. FSC executive director, Pedro Barata said that the project was successful because of its innovative approach toward equipping Indigenous people with skills training.
“This is a project that’s focused on better activating and engaging First Nations communities that have been disproportionately left out of economic success compared to other Canadians,” Barata said. “Here you have a group of First Nations that are thinking in an integrated way about where the opportunities are going to be… In addition to technical skills, it will create wrap-around supports to ensure we’re supporting people to succeed in all their dimensions. The approach is very comprehensive, it’s very community driven, and it’s focused on what the economy actually needs.”
Over the next two years, the IEH will provide 150 skills assessments, develop 100 training plans, provide 100 participants with skills training courses, and negotiate 80 skilled jobs for members in construction and infrastructure projects facing labour shortages.
The CNA is utilizing the business connections of the Coast Salish Group, (CSG) – a business entity operated by the Stz’uminus First Nation to find ‘win-win-win-win-win partnerships’, with First Nation communities, industry, private sector, provincial and federal government as well as education providers. CSG CEO, Ray Gauthier said that those partnerships are one of the keys to the success of the IEH.
“Everyone has a role in this. Private industry can help identify what skills and opportunities are out there. We also need somebody to help deliver the educational pieces in ways which will get people to work quickly. It doesn’t follow the traditional concept. The idea here is to incrementally deliver a very specific set of skills, so that private industry feels that people are more employable around that specific set of skills,” Gauthier said.
“We see it as one of the things that we have to do in order to help membership not only rely on jobs that their own internal bands can create, but to help membership get jobs everywhere.”
Over 350 projects from across Canada applied for funding from FSC. Gauthier said that the idea for the IEH has been in development for a long time, and the investment from the FSC is a huge step in realizing the success of the idea. FSC will be closely watching the success of the IEH to see how the concept can be applied to nations
“Everybody who has seen the business plan we’ve put together on this has supported the idea,” Gauthier said.
The IEH will be governed by a board of directors that will have representation from each partner First Nation, and they will work to identify opportunities and establish programs to meet labour needs.
“One of the real wins of this is the cooperation within the CNA,” Gauthier said. “It’s going to take a lot of cooperation, and forward thinking to figure out how this entity morphs and evolves over time in order to provide opportunities for their individual members.”