Eabametoong’s Owen Boyce enjoyed the drone flying session at the First Nations Youth Employment Program Science Camp south of Thunder Bay.
“It’s pretty cool — it’s got nice controls,” says the second-year First Nations Natural Resources Youth Employment Program (FNNRYEP) student. “It’s just like a video game. It’s (got) a camera, you can maneuver wherever you go, right or left, up and down, forwards and backwards.”
Boyce was one of 48 FNNRYEP and 23 Mink Lake First Nations Youth Employment Program (MLFNYEP) students who participated in the Science Camp at Confederation College and Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Confederation partnered with Outland Camps in 2000 to deliver the FNNRYEP while Lakehead partnered with Outland Camps in 2015 to deliver the MLFNYEP. Both programs provide employment and learning opportunities for First Nations youth.
“It’s been good,” Boyce says. “You meet a lot of nice people from different places in Ontario. My future goals are to be an aviation pilot or a natural resources person.”
Boyce encourages other youth to get involved with the programs.
“The training is awesome; the food is good,” Boyce says. “We have a lot of fun activities, like tomorrow we are going paint-balling.”
In addition to the drone training and paint-balling, the youth learned about anthropology, geography, dendrology, sustainable energy sources, visual arts, engineering, entrepreneurship and Aboriginal mentorship during the Science Camp.
Eagle Lake’s Savannah Bondy, a second-year MLFNYEP student, enjoys the hands-on experiences in the program.
“I’d rather be out in the forest learning rather than being stuck in the classroom all day,” Bondy says. “I just love the outdoors in general.”
Bondy plans to study the Forest Ecosystem Management Technician program at Confederation College this upcoming fall.
Warren Iserhoff, a third-year FNNRYEP student from Kapuskasing, is back for the Crew Leader In Training this year.
“You have a lot more authority,” Iserhoff says. “It’s a really big role to play — you have to take care of the youth and make sure they are doing their job duties and making sure they are safe.”
Iserhoff plans to work for about a year before he applies to study in a firefighter program at college.
More than 380 students have successfully completed the FNNRYEP since it was developed in 2000.
“This program offers an important pathway for First Nations youth to pursue post-secondary education and potentially to inspire a career,” says Bill Gregorash, program manager and professor in the Workforce Development division at Confederation College. “Through meaningful employment, participants improve skills, develop a strong work ethic (and) learn how to be self-sufficient. They also have the opportunity to explore many facets of the natural resources sector and earn industry certifications that may assist them in their future careers. We are proud to be an ongoing partner.”
Twenty-three students also successfully completed the first year of the MLFNYEP in 2015.
“Lakehead University recognizes the importance of First Nations participation in all aspects of sustainable forest management,” says Ulf Runneson, dean of the Faculty of Natural Resources Management. “This includes the utilization of hands-on skills development in areas such as small-scale harvesting and milling as well as measurements and inventory, all of which the participants are being exposed to in this summer’s program.”
Anya Scheibmayr, field supervisor at Outland Camps, stressed the successes that have been achieved by the students in both programs.
“The experiences the programs offer these youth can be life-changing,” Scheibmayr says. “We regularly witness participants achieving higher levels of self-confidence, becoming stronger leaders in their communities and developing positive and long-lasting relationships with their peers.”
Program funding was provided by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Canadian Forest Services and First Nation and industry partners.