Thunder Bay

Dennis Franklin Cromarty trades school to expand options for students

First Nations leaders say a proposed new trades school within Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School will give more career opportunities, and hope, to youth.

First Nations education officials want to provide more career opportunities to youth

NAN Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic says expanding opportunities for First Nations students to study the trades is about giving more youth hope that they can succeed. He says over 450 young people have committed suicide in NAN communities since the mid-1980s. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

First Nations leaders say a proposed new trades school within Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay will provide more career opportunities, and hope, to youth.

They unveiled plans Thursday to offer more a more comprehensive curriculum in the trades, but said there's a lot of work to do before the "school within a school" is fully realized.

Ken Liddicoat is a technology teacher at DFC. He said the former public vocational high school on North Edward Street requires a lot of upgrades to house a proper, modern trades school. "It needs to be updated and modernized," he said as he led representatives from the business, labour, and non-profit sectors on a tour of the 50-year-old building. 

"Whether it's the ventilation system to the lighting, [it] needs to be fixed up and updated."

"We need to build the infrastructure within the school," he said. "Re-do the classrooms and fill them full of industry-level materials and equipment so we can deliver quality programming."

Ken Liddicoat, a technology teacher at DFC, says existing shop facilities at the school need to be upgraded to accommodate a modern trades school. The 50-year-old building was Northwood High School, a public vocational school, from the early-60s to the mid-90s. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

Liddicoat said that currently the school offers limited classes in construction and transportation technology, which include things like small-engine repair. He said space is limited for these courses. Under the new plan, some existing rooms will be converted to house specific trades, including manufacturing, hospitality and hairstyling.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council provided an overview of the project on Thursday. NAN Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic said offering an education in the trades will keep more young people in school.

"By saying 'look, I want to go through the trade route,' and there's a light in the tunnel, it's going to be a lifeline for some of our young people," he said. "It's not for everybody. It's an option."

Kakegamic said not everyone is destined for college or university, and having this option can keep many young people from falling through the cracks before they find a career. "If they [were] given an opportunity to go into education on a trade route, that will give them hope .... that they can succeed," he said.

Because the project is off-reserve, Kakegamic said capital funding is hard to come by. That's why, he said, officials are looking to partner with the private and non-profit sectors to do the necessary upgrades at DFC.

A fund raising gala is also scheduled for later this month in Thunder Bay.

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