THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO – A 100% First Nations owned and operated company based in Thunder Bay has received some good news courtesy of the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities (MTCU). It was officially announced today that the Ontario Government is investing $2.4 million in training and job opportunities in Northwestern Ontario.
Agoke Development Corporation is a lead training partner with both Confederation College and Oski-O-Pimache-O-Win Training Institute. Both training agencies will share the funding to train community members from various First Nations including Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls in various occupations such as millwright, electrician, saw filer, heavy equipment operators and forest management personnel.
For Agoke Development Corporation the training programs are key to maximizing the social and economic conditions of their First Nations and advancing their local and regional economy. “As older workers like baby boomers are planning to retire, we are readying our First Nations communities to be positioned to play our part in filling the skilled trade gap”, stated Mark Bell, Agoke Board Director, Aroland First Nation. “We are taking a lead role to unlock the immense potential of our youth and integrate millennials into the workforce by providing them with the tools, inspiration, experiences and wrap-around supports they need to succeed, “ added Bell.
Over the past few years, Agoke has focused on building key relationships with consuming mills in the region and their efforts were successful in establishing a joint-venture agreement with the Nakina Sawmill to restart the operations last year. Agoke and Nakina Lumber set up a working committee that provides input into the facility’s recruitment process, advancing on-the-job apprenticeships and stabilizing employee retention.
“There are many training organizations out there that are counting heads in classrooms simply to count dollars for their companies, but we don’t see these people working after the training,” stated Bill Spade, Agoke Board Director, Eabametoong First Nation. “Through our strategic alliances and key partnerships with companies like Nakina Lumber, Agoke is making sure that there is a guaranteed job after the training and a light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what separates our training from the rest, “ said Spade.
Over the next few years, Agoke is looking to expand into other sectors like construction and energy. One of the main reasons for its success is its big-picture thinking to be more than just a forestry company. They are also empowering their community members to take advantage of cross-training in different equipment and machines to diversify their skillsets. “There are many projects on the horizon that we are building capacity to target. Our training initiatives are aligned with our long-term vision and are culturally appropriate and make sense to our peoples, said Lawrence Baxter, Agoke Director, Marten Falls First Nation. “We are reaching back with a helping hand to community members that have fallen through the cracks in the education system. Now we are providing them with a platform to shine with job opportunities and hope for tomorrow. We are seeing smiles on their faces and laughter again. It’s rewarding to know that we are making a difference and helping our peoples change their lives for the better.” Baxter added.
Marten Falls Chief Achneepineskum on the announcement
Agoke Development Corporation recently launched a YouTube Channel that showcases the training program through two (2) short 4-minute video clips. The videos provide the holistic land-based approach to the Forestry 101 Worker Orientation Training and the Mechanical Heavy Equipment Operator Training that is occurring in the Ogoki Forest.
About Agoke Development Corporation
The Agoke Development Corporation is a forestry company that consists of the Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls First Nation.
About the Ogoki Forest
The Ogoki Forest is located 400 km north-east of Thunder Bay immediately east of the Wabakimi Provincial Park and is approximately 10,900 km² in size.