To the Editor: I am responding to an article that was published in the Oct. 25, 2016 issue of the Daily Commercial News entitled First Nations skills training: there’s a will but is there a way?
In the article, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister David Zimmer suggested that the trades should turn their minds to how to attract indigenous youth into their crafts. It is important to note, however, that strides have been made.
Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), which represents about 14,500 crane and heavy equipment operators across Ontario, has been building bridges with Aboriginal communities across the province for many years, as I believe that getting more indigenous youth into the trades is one solution to meeting the skills gap.
In the last 12 years, more than 620 Aboriginal people have been trained at the Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario (OETIO) campus in Morrisburg, Ont. Going forward, I hope to recruit at least 50 Aboriginal people a year for training at the OETIO as pre-apprentices, apprentices and experienced journeypersons.
Three years ago, we hired an Aboriginal co-ordinator to engage Local 793 with the indigenous population across Ontario. He has met with leaders of Aboriginal communities and First Nations, Inuit and Metis employment and training agencies.
Recently, our local also signed a Statement of Partnership with Regional Chief Isadore Day from the Chiefs of Ontario, which represents 133 First Nations communities in Ontario. The document was signed at the Assembly of First Nations Annual General Assembly in Niagara Falls. By signing it, Local 793, the OETIO and First Nations chiefs agreed to work collaboratively and get people from their communities into pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship and fee-payer training programs.
We have worked closely with the Aboriginal Apprenticeship Board of Ontario (AABO), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing the number of Aboriginals in the trades, and have an excellent working relationship with many First Nations communities such as Six Nations, Akwesasne, the Matawa Tribal Council, the London District Chiefs Council and the Wikwemikong, Mushkegowuk Tribal Council.
We also have Aboriginal pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs at the OETIO. This is the first year we ran the Aboriginal pre-apprenticeship program and graduates are either working for a company or returning for more training as an apprentice.
In the article, the success of the A6N, a joint venture with Aecon, and Work-Ready Aboriginal People Program were highlighted. It should be noted that we supply operators for the A6N and are trying to replicate the model in other Aboriginal communities. We are also part of the work-ready program and students are brought to our training campus in Morrisburg for two nights and two days where they get an opportunity to do earthmoving work and operate heavy equipment.
Lately, a number of signatory contractors have been requesting operators from Local 793 when they are working on projects in or near Aboriginal communities and we send skilled indigenous operators from our union hall. We also introduce the contractors to First Nations leaders and provide sessions to educate employers about Aboriginal communities.
The headline of the article inferred there is a will but questioned if there is a way. I can assure you that Local 793 is offering a way for Aboriginal youth who want to become crane or heavy equipment operators.
IUOE Local 793