First Nations Youth Employment Programs Expose Students to Careers

Participants Sydney White (left) of Whitefish Bay First Nation and Shaylyn Lands of Eagle Lake First Nation measure a tree as part of the inventory and identification activities?
Participants Sydney White (left) of Whitefish Bay First Nation and Shaylyn Lands of Eagle Lake First Nation measure a tree as part of the inventory and identification activities?

Participant Antoine Boyce (second from left) of Fort Hope First Nation flies a drone during Science Week, part of the First Nations Youth Employment Programs offered in partnership with Outland, Confederation College and Lakehead University
Participant Antoine Boyce (second from left) of Fort Hope First Nation flies a drone during Science Week, part of the First Nations Youth Employment Programs offered in partnership with Outland, Confederation College and Lakehead University

THUNDER BAY – The First Nations Natural Resources Youth Employment Program (FNNRYEP) has 48 participants learning about anthropology, geography, dendrology, sustainable energy sources, visual arts, engineering, entrepreneurship, aboriginal mentorship and more this week during a Science Camp at Confederation College and Lakehead University.

Since 2000, Outland Camps has partnered with Confederation College to offer the FNNRYEP to provide employment and learning opportunities for First Nations youth. To date, the partnership has resulted in over 380 participants being successfully trained, launching numerous careers in the Natural Resource sector.

“This program offers an important pathway for First Nations youth to pursue post-secondary education and potentially to inspire a career,” said 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 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.”

Lakehead University and Outland Camps developed a partnership in 2015 to offer the Mink Lake First Nations Youth Employment Program (MLFNYEP), an experience which mirrors that of the FNNRYEP. 23 participants successfully completed the program in its inaugural year.

Participants Sydney White (left) of Whitefish Bay First Nation and Shaylyn Lands of Eagle Lake First Nation measure a tree as part of the inventory and identification activities?
Participants Sydney White (left) of Whitefish Bay First Nation and Shaylyn Lands of Eagle Lake First Nation measure a tree as part of the inventory and identification activities?

“Lakehead University recognizes the importance of First Nations participation in all aspects of sustainable forest management,” said 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, spoke to the partnerships with both institutions. “Through these programs, Confederation College and Lakehead University have demonstrated a clear commitment to supporting the growth and education of First Nations youth. The experiences the programs offer these youth can be life-changing. 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.”

Today, participants from both programs learned how to fly drones and practiced tree inventory and identification techniques. Throughout the week, each program follows its own schedule, but the two groups come together several times to maximize the learning experience and opportunities.

The week has included field trips to local facilities and has welcomed guest speakers from Confederation College, Lakehead University and the natural resources industry. Participants also toured both campuses and had multiple opportunities to gain hands-on experience, including today’s activities, geo-caching, an engineering challenge, a graffiti art workshop and more.

FNNRYEP participants will return to their home base at Sandbar Camp (near Ignace), while MLFNYEP participants will return to Mink Lake. Both programs will continue through mid-August, with closing ceremonies taking place at Mount McKay on August 25.

Funding for both programs is 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.