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Construction skills course celebrates first 25 graduates

Six-week program at Lower St'atl'imx community part of provincial 'bootcamp'



Patricia Peters is ready for her future career.

She is one of the first graduates of a new provincial six-week program for teaching essential skills to First Nations members. The program saw its first intake of 25 students, all from the Lower St'atl'imx community near Pemberton, graduate on July 19.

"As I did this course it helped me build my confidence and self-esteem," said Peters, adding that she took the course because she had applied for jobs and not had the right skills "for any type of job." Her challenge, she said, was not having enough confidence and she wanted to show her two children what was possible.

"I believe in myself (now) and know that I can learn new things and I want to pass that on to my kids because they're watching me and I want to be a good example for them," she said.

"As the course went along it became geared towards what I wanted to learn, I needed to upgrade my reading and my math. This really helped that."

Peters said she has encouraged her family and friends to look into the upcoming programs if they, too, were having trouble finding work.

"I keep boasting about all the wonderful subjects in here, all the different certifications we've received," she said, noting that women had not previously been offered the chance to get the qualification.

"To have an opportunity to participate in all these different aspects of the course really helped."

The British Columbian government announced the creation of the Workplace Essential Skills: Bootcamp for the Construction Industry program in June. Capilano University's Continuing Education program, and the Aboriginal Skills Group are jointly delivering the $468,800 program.

The second intake, concentrating on carpentry, starts in August and is already full. The third class, teaching how to use heavy machinery, starts at the end of September and still has some vacancies.

Minsuk Choi, the administrator of the Lower St'atl'imx Tribal Council, said the program made essential skills assessments of the participants, many of whom did not complete high school, and built general trades occupation skills and confidence.

"All the training is job-oriented training," said Choi.

"In this area we have independent power projects, the Douglas Nation already have eight power projects in their territory and they are still building more.

"This course just completed will also lead to other training because some people don't have the qualification to specialize."

The course was open to adults of all ages. CapilanoU instructor Sham Sangha handed out certificates.

Essential skills like reading and math were assessed at the beginning and end of the course, and every student had improved.

"The first assessment average (for the group) was 1.8 but for the last assessment the average went up to 2.3. Listening skills started at 2.1 and went up to 2.4. Numeracy was 1.9 but at the end was 2.3," Choi told the graduates and their families, who applauded at the news.

Graduate, Annie Nelson, said she had only Grade 10 qualification. Taking the program meant she could "finish being a stay-at-home mom and learn more," which would allow her to support herself and her family.

"I enjoyed everything, especially the computers," she said.

Don Harris, president of the Lower St'atl'imx Tribal Council told the graduates: "I hope this encourages you all to move on."

Lynn Jest, the director of community partnerships at Capilano University, spoke to the graduates at the ceremony.

"I'm a real believer in continuing learning. It never stops... I love seeing this kind of outcome from an educational program," she told them.

At the program's government launch in June, Minister of Jobs, Tourism, Skills Training Shirley Bond, said that graduates would have the skills needed to work in both the construction and operations phases of local hydroelectric projects.

She noted that a million new job openings were expected in B.C. by 2020 and shortages of skilled workers are expected.


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