Industry, education, employment and literacy representatives gathered in Ashcroft last week to discuss how to get clients without high school graduation or certification back into the industrial workforce.
“There’s no easy fixes,” said Renae Spence, administrator for the First Nations Education Council for SD 73 (Kamloops-Thompson). “We have to figure out what the needs are and for at it.”
She said the need for potential employees to upgrade their education is not going away, and entry level requirements are going up all the time.
The focus is, she said, “How do we get them to a place where they can pass the entry requirements?”
“This is a provincial/national issue I would think,” said Spence, but she acknowledged that rural areas have a special challenge of not having sufficient numbers to warrant training programs in their own towns.
Nathan Matthew, Executive Director Aboriginal Education for Thompson Rivers University, said figuring out the numbers of people needing upgrades was one of the questions to be answered before moving ahead.
He was at the meeting to look for an aboriginal program that would include Cache Creek, Ashcroft and Lytton areas in providing more opportunities for them.
He said some of the ideas at the meeting included assessments, shared services, and storefront delivery of educational upgrades.
Deb Arnott, CFDC-Sun Country manager put together the Ashcroft/Cache Creek Literacy, Education & Training Strategic Planning Session on Jan. 25 in the Ashcroft TRU office. Sun Country is the steward for the regional literacy funds.
“I’m pleased that we’re getting all these different agencies in the room together,” said Arnott.
Two major issues were identified by the group: one being the number of local workers who did not have the credential necessary to pass entry level requirements in industry; the second being the lack of industry-recognized certificates for work in oil and gas, pipeline construction, forestry and mining – how does the person get that education and how do they pay for it?
“Being here as a group opens up channels for partnership,” said Wendy Blaskovic, Trades and Transitions Co-ordinator for SD 74. “It offers more opportunities for our students to get real life experiences.”
Ann Belcham, Literacy Outreach Co-ordinator, said many people are coming up to her and asking for GED or adult basic education.
“We’re the ones who’ll be tutoring them, in partnership with SD 74, the Employment Centre and TRU,” she said.