Programs help Indigenous youth

By Michael-Allan Marion, Brantford Expositor

Urban Indigenous youth have two new federally-funded programs to help them secure higher-level skills and employment.

Two programs worth nearly $11 million were announced at a conference hosted by the Niagara Peninsula Area Management Board in Niagara-on-the-Lake on Wednesday.

The federal government will fund a Journey to Success program, contributing $2.97 million over four years to help improve the quality of essential skills training in hospitality, tourism and healthcare for 150 urban Indigenous youth, from ages 18 to 30.

The program is funded in part by the Canadian government’s adult learning literacy and essential skills program.

The first program’s total value is $3.76 million with 20 per cent contributed by various local partners to the project.

It will serve participants in the board’s five service areas: Brantford, St. Catharines, Fort Erie, Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo.

“Preparing youth to make an informed choice about their future sets them up for success,” said Shari St. Peter, the management board’s executive director.

“The board is responding to what employers are asking for – essential skills and soft skills preparation - in addition to the technical training required to enter a variety of industries.”

Breaking down barriers to employment for Indigenous people will ensure that everyone has a real and fair chance at success, Patricia Hadju, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, said in a news release.

“Helping Indigenous people get the skils and training they need to find good jobs will grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and help those working hard to join it.”

The second program is called Building Future. In that one, the federal government is contributing $5.8 million to provide experiential skills training in building and construction trades for urban Indigenous youth, ages 18 to 30, in southern Ontario.

It also will serve Indigenous youth in Brantford, Hamilton. St. Catherines, Fort Erie and Kitchener-Waterloo.

The money is coming from a federal skills and partnership fund.

The program also has three  partners:  Habitat for Humanity-Niagara, Mohawk College and YMCA Employment Services of Niagara.

A total 180 youth will build 15 affordable homes in southern Ontario over the project’s duration.

“While engaging in demand-driven training, the youth participants will develop a deeper sense of accomplishment and pride as their hands at work will have significant social and community impact,” said St. Peter.

“Youth from the community building homes for their community is one of the most beautiful outcomes of this project.”

The impact of the two programs goes well beyond the four years the funding is available, said St. Peter.

“They will have a huge impact on social progress and employability of the Indigenous people who will benefit from it.”

St. Peter also noted the two programs are examples of the federal government’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and respond directly to two of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls for action.

“So these are important announcements for the future of Indigenous people,” she said.