Aboriginal learners in the Fraser Valley will have more opportunities to develop in-demand job skills thanks to an expansion of the Aboriginal Training for Employment Program (ATEP). A two-year agreement between Seabird Island Band and Skill Builders means that up to 44 Aboriginal participants will be able to access the First Nations Utility Training Program that will help them develop the skills needed for employment in the industry, along with a foundation for further education in the skilled trades. “Specific-trade training creates a unique set of skills that students can then transfer to their jobs. Because these trades allow students to specialize, students who complete either of these programs will hold an advantage over job candidates without these skills,” said Chilliwack MLA John Les in a release on Thursday.

Under the BC Jobs Plan, government is committed to providing funding for community-based delivery of programs that meet Aboriginal learners’ needs. ATEP service providers deliver job-related training in essential skills and introductory trades training, along with mentoring, coaching and support through partnerships with public, private and Aboriginal-controlled training organizations around B.C. “We are delighted to be working with the Province of British Columbia and the BC Utilities Aboriginal Group to provide utilities training to First Nations throughout the region. With more than one million jobs expected to open up in the next decade in B.C., we are committed to providing the skills and training for First Nations so that they can participate fully in the economy,” noted Chief Clem Seymour, Seabird Island Band in the same release.

The program was introduced in 2010 with an investment of $4 million through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Agreement (LMA). By January 2012, more than 500 Aboriginal people had graduated from ATEP programs offered by 17 Aboriginal organizations. Earlier this year, 11 service providers’ contracts were renewed and another $2.9 million invested. In the summer, a third Request for Proposals was posted on BC Bid seeking more service providers to bring training and employment opportunities to Aboriginal individuals throughout the province.

“The Seabird Island and the Skill Builders partnership is a fine example of what industry working with community can accomplish to support Aboriginal skills development. The training that will be provided in the First Nations Utility Training Program will make a difference for individuals, families and communities,” said Brenda Ireland, Industry Council for Aboriginal Business, Skill Builders Group.

As a direct result of federal LMA funding, thousands of British Columbians are receiving training that will advance their careers, assist in securing new employment, and ultimately improve the economic outcomes of individuals in B.C. and Canada. The current agreement will expire on March 31, 2014, and B.C. is preparing to enter discussions with the federal government to renew this important agreement and ensure our province has the skilled workforce required to support long term labour market needs and economic growth.

The Skill Builders Industry Training Group is a collaborative initiative of BC Hydro, FortisBC, Kinder Morgan and Spectra Energy to provide project-specific skills development and promote meaningful employment for Aboriginal peoples. Quick Facts:
  • To be eligible for ATEP, participants must be of Aboriginal heritage, 18 years or older, unemployed and not receiving EI benefits, or employed but without a high school diploma.
  • Nearly 25,000 students a year who enrol in public post-secondary education identify themselves as Aboriginal, an 18 per cent increase since the Aboriginal Education Strategy was launched in 2007. Learn More:  

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