Sudbury

Indigenous youth are learning to become water treatment operators in northern Ontario

A Canadian Non Governmental Organization (NGO) has teamed up with a council of six First Nations in northeastern Ontario with the aim of training young Indigenous people to become water treatment plant operators.

12 interns will be recruited across the tribal council's region

Interns Sunny Payash and Georgina McLeod working together and measuring water quality parameters at the beach at Anicinabe park in Kenora during Environmental Water week. (Submitted by Water First)

A Canadian Non Governmental Organization (NGO) has teamed up with a council of six First Nations in northeastern Ontario with the aim of training young Indigenous people to become water treatment plant operators.

Canadian Water First Education & Training Inc. will help to deliver a drinking water treatment and environmental water science internship program for young Indigenous adults.

About 12 interns will be recruited across the tribal council's region to pursue Operator in Training (OIT) and Water Quality Analyst (WQA) certifications.

Irvin George, the executive director of the Waabnoong Bemjiwang Association of First Nations (WBAFN), says a program which would help recruit new water treatment operators is welcome news.

Jeremy Ledoux Redsky learning how to do titration to measure alkalinity in the water during the Entry Level Course (ELC) week at Seven Generations, Kenora. (Submitted by Water First)

Certification and empowerment

He said more often than not, the job is done by one or two individuals in a community.

"Fortunately for us, the water situation for the majority of our communities is very good. The (water) treatment resources is lacking to some extent," George said, "Three of our communities are presently pursuing major renovations or replacements for their current water treatment facility." 

Under the internship program, each intern will accumulate 1,800 hours of on-the-job experience in water treatment plants, which is a part of the certification process.

Through the 15-month program, interns will also pursue their water quality analyst certification, which can lead to work in both drinking water treatment and the environmental water field.

'They've worked out quite well'

This isn't the first time that youth have participated in the program in northeastern Ontario. 

"They've worked out quite well," said John Millar, executive director of the NGO. 

"In partnership with the seven First Nations on Manitoulin Island we saw a terrific of cohort of graduates go through the program and within weeks of graduating nine out of 10 the graduates had work lined up," he said.

It's fantastic to see the results come in, about 70 per cent have passed their operator and training exams.— John Millar, executive director of Water First Education & Training Inc.

"To see the young qualified individuals snapped up so quickly, it's really incredible." 

Millar said the organization has also been working with the Bimose Tribal Council in northwestern Ontario, where there are 11 First Nations that are involved with the program. 

"It's fantastic to see the results come in, about 70 per cent have passed their operator and training exams," he said.

Millar said the program came into being upon listening to First Nations communities across the province and their issues regarding access to safe and clean drinking water.

"This service and this program, it essentially brings a sort of college technical training to communities and very much bases the classroom in the community where it's needed. It's quite key to work in that local context."

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With files from Up North

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