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Long-distance education program seeing success in Constance Lake

Thursday March 6, 2014
Heather Campbell/Special to Wawatay News

Lydia Couture, Co-Facilitator (far left), Diane Andrews, Co-Facilitator (far right) with participants in the Constance Lake First Nation Job Readiness program.

A four-week job readiness program in Constance Lake First Nation is seeing positive results.
In the first four week session, three of the 12 participants were offered jobs at Lecours Lumber.

Constance Lake First Nation established a team including Sioux Hudson Literacy Council, Contact North | Contact Nord, and band services such as Ontario Works, economic development, employment and training and the Jane Mattinas Health Centre to develop a program that would help members achieve employment.

With the recent establishment of a Contact North | Contact Nord online learning centre in the community, participants in the job readiness program are able to obtain a high school diploma and work-ready training. Courses such as WHIMIS, offered by Sioux Hudson Literacy Council, are now available online and in the community.

Daniel Pratt, a participant in the first program, says it was a good experience taking the courses online.

“I did the WHIMIS training online,” he said. “It was an audio course so you just hear the teacher, and we also did a sharing circle online with people participating from all over the province.”

The job readiness program consists of several sessions in healthy living before taking any online learning courses.

“We start by looking at the choices they make and how to become more employable,” explained Diane Andrews, NADAP worker at the Jane Mattinas Health Centre and co-facilitator.

“They learn about self-esteem, coping skills, stress management and team building skills,” she said.

“We also talk about bullying on the job and harassment.”

As changes take place in education for First Nations, and as the Ring of Fire and other mining activities ramp up in the area, community leaders want members to be prepared.

“There were no jobs around here and we were not prepared to work,” says Ernest Moore, economic development officer for Constance Lake First Nation.

“The mining companies are now on the scene and we need to make sure our community is prepared. Contact North was the missing link in our program not only for the job readiness program but for others who want to finish high school or take a college program.”

Contact North | Contact Nord, Ontario’s distance education and training network, has 112 centres across the province, with 27 in First Nations communities. Students are able to enroll in over 18,000 courses and 1,000 programs from Ontario’s 24 public colleges, 22 public universities, over 250 public literacy and essential skills and training providers.

Constance Lake First Nation members would normally have to leave family and community support to attend programs in Timmins or Thunder Bay, but with a program that helps to break down barriers and provide access to courses and programs online, there is a far better likelihood of successful completion, according Contact North’s director of aboriginal recruitment and services.

“It is a model that has huge benefits,” said Tina Reed. “The community is able to encourage and mentor participants, helping to break down the barriers to education and employment and walk the path with them.”

A second group of 12 participants is currently underway in the program.

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