Friday, 11 August 2017

Sustainable solutions to education and employment in the form of community based training at the Atoskiwin Training and Employment Centre

By Cassandra Szabo, 1st Year MDP student

I am doing my placement at the Atoskiwin Training and Employment Centre (ATEC) in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) located on Treaty 5 territory 800 kilometers north of Winnipeg. ATEC is a training to employment facility that was born out of the Wuskwatim agreements between the First Nation and Manitoba Hydro. Manitoba Hydro was to create a facility that would train local members to build the generating station, however once the dam was completed the long term use of the facility was in question. The need for training, specifically training that leads to employment is a crucial service necessary on the First Nation, the executive director and others in the community saw this value and advocated to keep ATEC as a training centre. The systemic inequalities on Canadian First Nations mean that students are falling through the education system and not getting the education they deserve and need to gain employment, so this became ATEC’s goal- to fill the gaps and build up their community.

Me standing in front of ATEC

ATEC intake process
ATEC realized that not all the students coming to them had the same levels of education, some were below a grade 8 level, some above it. In order to better serve the needs of the students and place them into the proper program, ATEC created a unique intake process which not only assesses their academic level, career hopes, but also their emotional and social wellbeing. This process is done through an online testing system, and then for the wellbeing assessment a trained individual will evaluate mental health and substance abuse vulnerability. If it is deemed that a student may struggle with addictions or mental health they are encouraged to attend the Medicine lodge and then return to their studies. This process has been crucial in ensuring the success of the students. If an individual is struggling outside of the classroom then they may not succeed in the classroom and this leads to a feeling of defeat, low self-esteem, and then potentially that individual will not pursue any further training.

ATEC has a variety of programs that students can enter based on where they have been assessed. Students can enter in programs that will help them with literacy and numeracy, up to first year university. Students that take the Mature Student Diploma Program also have a mentorship opportunity which enables them to gain work experience in the field they are interested in. Additionally, ATEC has had extensive success with their Integrated Trades program which pairs those interested in carpentry with a Red Seal to gain the necessary skills for the field. ATEC pursues programming that has direct job opportunities attached to it, and this has been called a “Labor Market Intermediary” by the Canadian Council for Policy Alternatives. A Labor Market Intermediary creates relationships between various actors that are necessary for individuals to find and keep meaningful employment. These relationships are formed between, employers, education and training centers, government, funding agencies, and community organizations. The Labor Market Intermediary ensures that low-skilled workers are targeting their training to targeted sectors.

College prep graduation ceremony
My time at ATEC is spent doing a variety of things that the staff need support on, so far I have worked on:
  • Education program proposals – Each year ATEC has to write a proposal to continue programming from University College of the North.
  • Funding Proposals – ATEC is in constant need to secure new funding, so funding proposals are a crucial part of the organization.
  • Accreditation applications – In order for ATEC to be able to issue credits they need to be an accredited institution, and the application for this is lengthy.

I have also been able to sit in on some exciting meetings that are discussing the future of the organization and future initiatives!

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