VICTORIA - First Nations students will receive specific training and be better skilled, thanks to a new two-year educational support program that will help ensure they have the opportunity to participate successfully in British Columbia's forest sector.
The B.C. government has committed $250,000 for the two-year First Nations Forestry Technician Training Program, being offered at numerous college and universities across the province, including College of New Caledonia and Vancouver Island University. The funding will provide training and other necessities including tuition, books and a living allowance while at school, for up to 10 First Nation students around the province.
The program helps First Nations students develop their skills and knowledge of the forest industry with the goal of building capacity for First Nations to be full partners in the sector. Staff from local BC Timber Sales offices will mentor the students throughout the program and will provide summer work experience opportunities.
There are five students registered in the program this fall receiving hands-on training. As well, two students are waitlisted for next year and another is upgrading skills. The program also includes the potential for students to further upgrade their skills after the initial training takes place.
B.C.'s forest sector has forecasted a looming shortage of skilled forest technicians and this program has the potential to assist the sector in its recruitment efforts from First Nation communities.
The program is a partnership between the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, BC First Nations Forestry Council and the federally funded Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy agreement holders. The council is also supporting the program with funds from other First Nations training funding initiatives.
Under 'Our Natural Advantage: Forest Sector Strategy for British Columbia', the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is committed to working with First Nations and providing support to ensure all First Nations have the opportunity to become successful partners in B.C.'s forest industry.
Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations -
"First Nations involvement in B.C.'s forest industry has steadily increased over the past few years. We hope with this program that more First Nations youth will successfully enter forestry as a long-term career."
Ida Chong, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation -
"Aboriginal youth are British Columbia's fastest growing demographic and an essential part of our future workforce. Aboriginal workers and businesspeople are playing an ever-increasing role in keeping B.C.'s resource sector strong, and the First Nations Forestry Technician Training Program will help to maintain that momentum."
Keith Atkinson, CEO, BC First Nations Forestry Council -
"We are extremely excited to be offering both education sponsorship and employment opportunities to aboriginal folks interested in working in the forest sector. This is a particularly good program in that it incorporates resources from the province, the federally funded Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy agreement holders and in the case of one student, WorkSafeBC also making this work.
"We have known for some time that First Nations can play an important role in the forest sector, considering the work force dynamic and the aboriginal community demographics in B.C. Everyone is very excited about the potential and we look forward to connecting aboriginal community members with the forest sector workforce demands."
Darrell West, program student -
"As a former employee of Hampton Affiliates' Babine Forest Products mill in Burns Lake that was destroyed after an explosion and fire earlier this year I was very uncertain what I would do. This program has opened many doors and is giving me a way to move forward by expanding my skills and knowledge."
- B.C. First Nations hold 14.7 per cent of B.C.'s allowable annual cut, increased from 11.9 per cent in 2010.
- Since 2002, B.C.'s government has signed forestry agreements with 175 First Nations, providing more than $324 million in revenue sharing and access to over 63.2 million cubic metres of timber.
Our Natural Advantage: Forest Sector Strategy: https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/mof/forestsectorstrategy/
BC Jobs Plan: http://www.bcjobsplan.ca/
First Nations Forestry Council: http://www.fnforestrycouncil.ca/
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations