Edmonton

Indigenous construction training program receives $1.9 million from province

The Alberta government announced Tuesday it will provide more funding to a NorQuest College centre that matches Indigenous people with construction-related jobs.

The funding is going to two Alberta Indigenous Construction Career Centres, including one at NorQuest College

Minister of Labour Christina Gray announced $1.9 million in funding for the Alberta Indigenous Construction Career Centres at NorQuest College in Edmonton and Bow Valley College in Calgary. (CBC )

The Alberta government announced Tuesday it will provide more funding to a NorQuest College centre that matches Indigenous people with construction-related jobs.

In front of more than 100 people outside NorQuest College in Edmonton, Minister of Labour Christina Gray said the province will provide $1.9 million over two years to the Alberta Indigenous Construction Career Centres (AICCC) at NorQuest College and Bow Valley College in Calgary.

The centres connect unemployed Indigenous people with employers like JV Driver Projects Inc., ATCO Gas and Syncrude, which are hiring for construction projects.

The jobs span everything from general labour, to road construction and safety management.

Gray said the centres hope to help 1,700 people in the next two years find employment.

"Indigenous people are hard-working, entrepreneurial and important contributors to Alberta's economy," Gray said in a statement Monday.

"This additional investment will improve access to training opportunities and help more Indigenous people find good jobs in a key industry."

The unemployment rate for those who identify as First Nations people in Alberta was 12.1 per cent in January 2017, nearly twice the national unemployment average of 6.3 per cent measured in June 2017, according to Statistics Canada. 

'The need is there'

The NorQuest centre started off as a pilot project in 2015. Called the Aboriginal Training to Employment Program (ATEP), it was intended to connect, train and coach 300 Indigenous people for employment.

But the demand was much higher, with 1,900 people coming through the centre's doors in the last two years, said Gray. Two out of three were matched with a jobs appropriate to their skills.

"The need is there," NorQuest president Jodi Abbott said. "I think it says something about the college, that we create the right environment and take away as many barriers as we possibly can."

'This is opening doors for me'

Beth Sunshine, 50, is taking a week-long security officer training course through the AICCC. She left the job market five years ago to take care of her family.

She said her dream job is to work as a security officer in the oil field.

"This is opening doors for me to get to that next step," she said.

The NorQuest centre also provides benefits to employers looking to hire Indigenous workers, including an interactive database of workers, employee recommendations and tips on including Indigenous policies in the workplace.

Abbott said the centre works as an important symbol of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous workers.

"We work with industry partners to enhance understanding … and when you do that, you will have more success," she said.