By Shari Narine
Later this month, 12 Indigenous adult students will begin training as powerline technicians. It’s the second intake in three years and Katie-Jo Rabbit is ready for more success.
“We look at industry and try to develop programming that meets those needs. When we know there’s going to be a labour shortage, we try to build and develop programs in partnership that will provide clients with the skills to be able to be competitive,” said Rabbit.
She serves as assistant manager and employment counsellor in the Lethbridge office of SAAMIS Aboriginal Employment and Training Association.
The majority of the 16 students who trained in the course from October 2015 to March 2016 have employment. The program was a partnership between SAAMIS and Lethbridge College.
“We have found a lot of success with the Lethbridge College. We enjoy working with them,” said Rabbit.
In fact, it’s been such a good partnership, that SAAMIS and Lethbridge College just completed the successful training of 12 wildland firefighters. A wildland firefighting opportunity had never been offered to the urban Indigenous population before. The four-week training concluded in mid-March.
Once more, said Rabbit, it was a matter of determining what the industry needs were and wildland firefighting had been identified.
The graduates, 70 per cent of whom are already employed, will do most of their work in southern Alberta but, if they are willing to travel, they could work throughout the province.
Rabbit is confident that as the spring and summer approach the remainder of the graduates will be employed.
Because of the success of the course, she anticipates it will be offered again.
“We’re always open to working with whatever industry is out there. So if an employer has high demand for employee needs, but requires specific training, SAAMIS can build a program to address those needs to ensure they get qualified trade employees to work with,” said Rabbit.
And on the flip side, she says, it’s just as valuable for the clients.
“First Nations need to be competitive in the labour market. We need to ensure they’re getting the right skills that are going to allow them to go right into employment after training,” said Rabbit.
SAAMIS’ involvement with clients (students) and industry does not end with the training. Not only does SAAMIS provide clients with one-to-three-day working interviews with respective employers, Rabbit says there will be follow-up with the newly-employed at both the three-month and six-month marks to ensure they’ve made the probationary period and are in a long-term position. And those who don’t get employment right away, will get further help to attain that goal.
“We want to ensure that our clients and employers are supported,” she said.
Support can mean giving clients more training so they are in line for promotions within the company, or re-assessing placements and career goals and providing other options.
Support also means working with employers to help with cultural diversification policies and working with clients to ensure they understand corporate culture.
SAAMIS also supports clients with funding for school. Individual funding for short-term employment is also available for training-to-employment opportunities. And prior to being selected for a program, there is an intensive intake process to ensure career fit and sufficient funding.
“We are doing this because we are equal opportunity supporters. Diversity is needed so much in the southern Alberta area. We also like to do these types of programs because we feel we can provide (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) people with pride in their heritage to be able to move forward in career-type positions,” said Rabbit.
Visit the website at http://www.saamisaboriginal.ca/