Sheree King says Confederation College's youth employment program changed her life.
The 17-year-old from Gull Bay First Nation attended the 13th annual six-week program at the college with about 25 other First Nation youth. She said she had such a good time last summer she wanted to come back to finish her certification in order to pursue a career in firefighting.
“This program has been very useful,” Sheree said. “This helps me take more things seriously in life; to grow up more. This made me more outgoing and not shy any more. It changed my life completely.”
Rena Onakanakis from Rocky Bay First Nation also attended the program along with Sheree and the 16-year-old first-timer admitted she was nervous as it got closer to the start date. Having spent a few weeks in the program already, she said she was glad to have participated and looked forward to doing it again next year.
“It means a lot actually to come and do this,” Rena said. “My family and friends told me this was a really good program to get into. I somewhat like the outdoors because it is a new experience for me. I wouldn’t have my first aid or my firefighting training or my chainsaw training.”
The students who participated had a chance to learn and work at various jobs in the natural resources sector including tree planting and some mining at the Lac des Iles mine.
Rilley Burton, program manager training and professional develop at the college, said they have students from 17 different First Nation communities participating at this year’s program. The students were chosen based on their grades and were flown to Thunder Bay to participate.
“They are employees so they do tree planting and spacing in the field and they also learn mining issues and on Thursday they are working on water treatment,” Burton said. “We think this is pretty unique. We don’t prepare ourselves with what everyone is doing, but we think it is unique and we think it is a great way to build awareness and an interest for First Nation youth in natural-resource management.”
The program wraps up on Aug. 12 at Camp Firesteel in Upsala.
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