B.C. carpentry course gives Nuu-chah-nulth students chance to study near home
'It was a way to stay and be supported, especially by their immediate family,' says education manager.
A group of Indigenous carpenters from the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations has graduated with a nationally recognized carpentry certification — and they did it without having to leave their Vancouver Island communities.
It is the first time this particular North Island College course — the Red Seal carpentry certification — has been offered.
The course was held over seven weeks in Tyhistanis on Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations land, a 15-minute drive south-east of Tofino, B.C. The level one Red Seal carpentry program began with 15 students, 10 of whom completed the course.
The students were awarded their certificates on Jan. 24.
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations education manager Iris Frank says making education available close to home will help young Indigenous post-secondary students.
"It has proven to work because they're able to stay within their own home community, not have to pick up their whole family and move to Port Alberni, Nanaimo or Victoria where normally all these programs are offered, Frank told All Points Westhost Robyn Burns.
"It was a way to stay and be supported, especially by their immediate family within their home."
The program was funded by a grant through the Ministry of Advanced Education. There are four phases to the Red Seal carpentry program.
Staying close to home
Nuu-chah-nulth communities on the West Coast, Ucluelet, Tla-o-qui-aht, and Ahousaht First Nations lack skilled carpenters, says Frank.
Had the students left the Nuu-chah-nulth communities for their education, Frank said, it's likely many would not return, instead choosing to stay in urban centres.
The program featured supports for English and math education. Students were also trained on the basics of carpentry.
"Some of them couldn't use machinery at all—didn't have any idea what to do … They were able to upgrade and understand everything as they went along [and] they came out with confidence," said Frank.
Frank says she grew emotional at the graduation ceremony.
"Like a lot of our people, when we go to school and we're able to have that family and community support, that means a lot to us."
The construction program included cultural support from elders, as well as technical training with a carpentry instructor.
Frank says organizers are starting to plan and look for funding for the level two Red Seal program.
Listen to the full story here:
With files from All Points West.