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Following a path to the trades

Thursday November 29, 2012
Seven Matawa First Nations members graduated from the first step on their way to becoming a journeyman carpenter during a ceremony in Winnipeg Nov. 23. The seven Matawa graduates were joined by four Tataskweyak Cree members during the course and the graduation ceremony. Elsie MacDonald of KKETS said the training program, in which Matawa provided support for the students to live and study in Winnipeg, is something that the tribal council is considering using again in the future. The grads plan to bring their skills back to their communities as they work towards earning 900 hours on the job, a requirement for the next step on their apprenticeship journey.

Photos by Rick Garrick/Wawatay News
Seven Matawa First Nations graduates celebrated their achievements in their pre-apprenticeship carpentry course on Nov. 23 in WInnipeg. The students are preparing to take their skills back to their communities.

Photos by Rick Garrick/Wawatay News
Cecilia Echum, Ginoogaming Chief

Photos by Rick Garrick/Wawatay News
Elsie MacDonald, KKETS president

Photos by Rick Garrick/Wawatay News

Constance Lake’s Arnold Sutherland is aiming for a career in carpentry after graduating from the Manitoba Regional Council Pre-Apprenticeship Level One Carpentry Training course.

“In about four years I hope to be a journeyman carpenter,” Sutherland said. “I’m supposed to start work right away (back home). Maybe I’ll take other programs like cabinetmaking just to build a wider array of skills.”

Sutherland was one of seven graduates from the Matawa First Nations who were celebrated by Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services (KKETS) during a Nov. 22 graduation ceremony at Place Louis Riel in Winnipeg. Four graduates from Tataskweyak Cree Nation (Split
Lake) in Manitoba were also celebrated during the ceremony.

“It was really good — I learned a lot of things I didn’t know before,” Sutherland said about the pre-apprenticeship course. “There were lots of concrete forms, like 20-foot high forms and slabs. We did a lot of scaffold work too. It was really good; we learned a lot.”

The first step in a four-year work and training process to become a journeyman carpenter, the pre-apprenticeship course provided the students with training for a GED (General Educational Development) as well as technical in-classroom training to enable them to qualify for exemption from level-one technical training as stipulated by the Apprenticeship Branch of Ontario and Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

“I think this (pre-apprenticeship course) works very well and I think it is going to be the new model,” said Elsie MacDonald, board president for KKETS. “It is a new way of providing training for our First Nations people because we need innovative ways to meet the training for our community needs.”

MacDonald said the pre-apprenticeship course provides students with training in skilled trades while at the same time providing them with their high school equivalency through the GED component.

“There is probably more training that needs to be done in the near future, even for the mining opportunities that are available in the north,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald said the students were offered plenty of support during the course, including accommodations for their families while they were studying in the city.

“And the mentoring was a great component to this program,” MacDonald said. “I’m excited about the new possibilities of how we can get our people to gain skills and even their high school diploma.”

Aroland’s Romeo Meshake took advantage of the mentoring by accepting some tutoring support after he had problems with his mathematics classes early on in the pre-apprenticeship course.
“It was kind of rough going for me on my first two months,” Meshake said. “I didn’t do math
for a long time.”

Doris Wabasse, senior projects officer with KKETS, said the students had daily contact with her and the other project officers.

“It was hard for them so we just gave them support, even with the Elder here,” Wabasse said. “Some of the guys are already going to work right after they go home. We have jobs lined up for them already.”

Meshake feels good knowing he has a job offer back in his home community to do house construction.

“I feel proud of myself,” Meshake said. “I just wanted to get my papers because I’ve been doing (carpentry) for 10 years without the paper. So now I’ve got my papers.”

Meshake said it would take about three more years of work in carpentry to complete all four levels of training to become a journeyman carpenter.

“I’ve got to get my 900 hours first before I get going again on my second level,” Meshake said.

After the students complete the four levels, Wabasse said they have to pass an examination to get their Red Seal to be a journeyman carpenter, which allows them to work anywhere across Canada.

Meshake encourages other community members to follow his path into the trades.

“I would like to see more young people do this,” Meshake said about the pre-apprenticeship course. “I wish they had this program a long time ago. I wish I’d done this a long time ago — I’ve probably only got like 10 or 15 years left to work.”

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