Nova Scotia

Feds give $1 million to support First Nations employment in Cape Breton

The Mi'kmaw Economic Benefits Office plans to create a program to encourage Indigenous youth to enter STEM, business fields.

Mi'kmaw Economic Benefits Office to create program to encourage Indigenous youth in STEM, business fields

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is providing the Mi'kmaw Economic Benefits Office almost $1 million to support its programming, including a new program encouraging Indigenous students to enter science, technology, engineering, math and business fields. (Actua)

The federal government is giving nearly $1 million to the Mi'kmaw Economic Benefits Office to increase employment and economic opportunities in Cape Breton's First Nations communities.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti made the announcement in Membertou, N.S., on Saturday morning on behalf of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Minister Navdeep Bains.

Alex Paul, MEBO's executive director, said word of the $999,114 in funding over three years is "fantastic news."

"We're very, very happy and consider ourselves very fortunate to have this continued support from ACOA, and certainly having a few years of funding committed to us … allows us the luxury to plan and roll out some of the activities that we want to do."

Recruiting Indigenous youth for STEM, business fields

The funding will support the office's existing programs, which include promoting employment opportunities and apprenticeships, recruiting from First Nations communities, delivering small business and personal finance workshops and helping new graduates prepare for post-secondary school.

It will also help the office launch a new program aimed at increasing the number of Indigenous people in science, technology, engineering, math and business fields.

"We've had discussions with some educational institutions and we want to take a kind of a bold approach of recruiting for programs that are in high demand," Paul said.

The program would recruit students to go into those fields at the post-secondary level, provide them with academic and industry mentors as well as work experience in their field. Then, after they complete their post-secondary programs, those students would become mentors for the next group of students.

Connecting with labour market

Paul said about 50 per cent of people in Cape Breton's First Nations communities are under the age of 25, and high school graduation rates are very high.

"A great many of them are being told to go to post-secondary, and so we need to make sure that we are getting people connected to careers. It would be incredibly disheartening to put all that effort in and then not connect to the labour market at the end," Paul said.

"When those industry partners tell us that they need draftspeople, that they need architects, that they need civil technicians, we need to get people into those fields so that they can be employed in them."

The funding comes from ACOA's Business Development Program.