By Tari Wilson
Premier Darrell Dexter announced $640,000 will go toward a new job training program for Mi’kmaq youth.
On Monday, March 5, Dexter travelled to the First Nations community of Membertou in Cape Breton to announce that the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office (the E.B.O.) will receive funding over the next two years.
“This was an opportunity first and foremost to fund a group of young people, who are going to be able to find good jobs in the industries that are right on the horizon,” says Dexter.
He is confident about Nova Scotia’s job opportunities. For example, the recent shipbuilding contract, offshore oil with Shell, the Lower Churchill project and the dredging of the Sydney Harbour.
The Unama’ki E.B.O. will work with all five Mi’kmaq communities in Cape Breton, as well as one’s from the mainland, such as Paq’tnkek and Pictou Landing.
“The reality is that in Aboriginal communities they have very high unemployment rates,” says Dexter. “And a lot of that has to do with [the fact that] they have not received the kind of education and training they need to get into those jobs.”
“Across the whole province we are training 700 people altogether,” says Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama’ki E.B.O.
Fitzgerald says their training programs are successful, and have previously led to many full-time job placements.
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Each community has a Native Employment Officer. Mi’kmaq youth tell the officer their job interest and the officer assesses current skills. Then the E.B.O. finds a fitting placement.
“We want to raise the level of their skills first. You don’t want to set them up for failure if they are missing those basic skills,” says Fitzgerald.
The Millbrook First Nation, one of the six Mi’kmaq communities on the mainland has similar training programs in place. They also are requesting funding from the government.
Alex Cope, the Band Administrator, says funding Unama’ki is not a significant amount considering how many communities they are training and how much it costs.
“Every bit of funding is valued and we could always use more,” says Cope. “Anyone you talk to would say we don’t have enough. And we’re in that situation now.”
Darrell Dexter talks about funding Mi’kmaq job training