Indigenous trades programs receive funding boost at TRU

New funding announced in January means Thompson Rivers University (TRU) will be offering trades training to Indigenous students closer to their homes and with needed supports.

The university is receiving almost $2 million from the $7.5 million in funding announced this week allocated from the Canada-BC Workforce Development Agreement for trades programs for Indigenous students throughout the province. The Industrial Training Authority is administering the funds, which will go to a total of six programs over the next two years.

TRU’s funding goes toward two programs: Careers in Construction Trades ($1.5 million) and the Transition and Heavy Mechanic Foundation Program ($478,000).

“I’m very happy to be able to provide this as an experience for Indigenous communities; Indigenous communities being underserved in post-secondary education,” said TRU Dean of Trades Baldev Pooni.

“Trades offer people very good career options with good paying jobs, and there’s a shortage of trades people now and more shortages coming in the future.”

Almost $1.5 million is designated for the Careers in Construction Trades Program over two years so 100 Indigenous students in Kamloops, Lillooet and Chase can become construction craft workers or heavy equipment operators, or try out a trades sampler program.

“These construction programs help to build communities. They’re capacity-building and community-building projects. They allow people to repair and build homes in the community,” he said.

An additional $478,000 is designated for the Transition and Heavy Mechanic Foundation Program in Williams Lake for 28 Indigenous students who will get support and earn industry certification.

There is already a heavy duty mechanical program open to all students in Williams Lake but it lacked enough funding and resources for an Indigenous cohort. Pooni said the new funds will allow for an Indigenous group of students and the additional supports required.

The ITA, which has committed to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, is working with Indigenous communities to eliminate barriers and increase participation in the trades.

“These new programs will ensure more individuals have opportunities to access training and become apprentices while giving them the tools to be successful,” said Shelley Gray, ITA chief executive officer.

BC Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark said the announcement is a response to needs identified within Indigenous communities.

“For years, Indigenous leaders have been calling for skills training opportunities closer to home to support their community’s needs and self-determination,” she said.

“These new programs will create pathways for Indigenous workers to take advantage of tens of thousands of in-demand jobs forecasted in the trades over the next decade.”

-Michelle Young writes for TRU


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