Algonquin College leads expansion of Indigenous YouthBuild program

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Ottawa Construction News staff writer

Algonquin College is leading a  $7-million expansion of a national project to help Indigenous youth obtain trades training while attending school.

The three-year project, funded by Employment and Social Development Canada, is mandated through Indigenous YouthBuild Canada, a national job-readiness program that brings First Nations communities together with educational institutions, government, and corporate partners to help Indigenous youth acquire job-ready skills while extending their education.

“The enhancement of the Indigenous YouthBuild program and Algonquin’s role in it underscores our commitment to the principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” said the college’s president and CEO Claude Brulé.

“At a very concrete level, the program offers a way forward for Indigenous youth to fully participate in the building of their communities and the wider Canadian community.”

Earlier this year, Algonquin oversaw a $1.2-million demonstration project that supported 80 Indigenous youth in receiving trade skills and schooling. The project’s success set the stage for the more long-term program. With the renewed funding, Algonquin will team up with four post-secondary institutions and two Indigenous organizations spread across Canada to provide First Nations, Métis, and Inuit youth with earn-as-you-learn opportunities.

“The enhancement of the Indigenous YouthBuild program and Algonquin’s role in it underscores our commitment to the principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Brulé said.

“At a very concrete level, the program offers a way forward for Indigenous youth to fully participate in the building of their communities and the wider Canadian community.”

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, lauded Algonquin’s involvement. “Supporting innovative projects led by and for Indigenous people builds a stronger and more inclusive Canada for generations to come,” she said.

“Right now, Indigenous youth are facing serious challenges finding work and educational opportunities due to the impacts of COVID-19,” said the Minister. “As Canada works to build back better, Indigenous YouthBuild Canada’s project will help so many Indigenous youth reach their potential – offering opportunities to gain valuable job experiences and skills, all while working on projects that matter to them and their communities.”

Algonquin College’s partners in this new project include the Akwesasne Education and Training Institute in southwestern Quebec, the Atoskiwin Training & Employment Centre in northern Manitoba’s Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, the Manitoba Institute of Trades & Technology in Winnipeg, Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba, Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., and Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, an Indigenous public post-secondary institute in Merritt, B.C.

With Algonquin providing oversight and managing the funds on behalf of the federal government, the partners will collectively bring nearly 360 Indigenous youth into the program.

“I am delighted to see this program expand,” said Ron (Deganadus) McLester, Algonquin’s vice-president, Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenization. “The pilot project provided those who participated with the opportunity to gain the skills and education they need to contribute to the betterment of their communities and transform their own hopes and dreams into lifelong success.”

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