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GDI Aboriginal Apprenticeship Project Update

Oct 13, 2015

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By James Oloo, Chelsie Scragg, and Shawn Mahar

Following the successful completion of the three-year GDI Aboriginal Apprenticeship Initiative in April 2014, in which 223 Aboriginal clients got jobs and 157 were indentured as apprentices to the provincial labour force, GDI Training and Employment submitted a funding proposal to the Western Economic Diversification Canada to enhance Aboriginal apprenticeship training. In February 2015, the Western Economic Diversification Canada announced a $3.1 million funding for the new GDI Aboriginal Apprenticeship Project to create 150 new jobs in Saskatchewan and indenture 100 new apprentices in severe shortage trades. As of the end of September 2015, GDI Training and Employment has signed 177 employer contracts to create apprenticeship jobs – 108 of which have been filled by our Aboriginal clients. The 108 employment positions represent 72 percent of the goal of 150 new jobs.

A report by the Ministry of the Economy and the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trades Certification Commission (SATCC) describe severe shortage as a situation where skilled workers needed to meet “employer qualifications are not available in local and adjacent markets to meet current demand so that projects or production may be delayed. There is excess demand; competition is intense and recruiting reaches to remote markets.”

The report identifies 23 designated trades in Saskatchewan that experience severe shortage. These are, Agricultural Equipment Technician, Automotive Service Technician, Boilermaker, Bricklayer, Carpenter, Construction Craft Labourer, Electrician, Hairstylist (in the Estevan/Weyburn and La Ronge-North areas), Heavy Duty Equipment Technician, Industrial Instrument Technician, Ironworker Reinforcing Rebar, Ironworker Structural, and Machinist. Others are Painter and Decorator, Partsperson, Pipeline Equipment Operator, Plumber, Powerline Technician, Roofer, Sheet Metal Worker, Steamfitter-Pipefitter, Steel Fabricator, and Welder.

Of the 23, GDI Training and Employment, in partnership with employers, has created jobs in 16 severe trades with 118 clients currently working. The top three trades are electrician (13 clients), construction craft labourer (nine clients), and motor vehicle body repairer (six clients). Others are Hairstylist (three clients), and one client each for bricklayer, machinist, powerline technician, and sheet metal worker. As well, 54 apprenticeship clients have been (or are in the process of being) indentured with the SATCC.

More than just the numbers, the GDI Aboriginal Apprenticeship Project continues the tradition of GDI as a beacon of hope and opportunity for many Métis people across Saskatchewan. The program informs and inspires clients to make the most of their talents and interests, and get knowledge and marketable skills while working under certified journeypersons.

In general, the clients have pointed out how the program is impacting their lives. Chevy Balzer, a Year I apprentice Automotive Service Technician, said, “Having a counsellor who is always helpful makes me feel that I can do this. It is good to have a Métis organization (like) GDI that is giving me support and encouragement … Thanks a lot GDI for the opportunity to do what I love, and for having faith in me.” Robin Scott McLean, a Year I Apprentice Carpenter who is working at the new Mosaic Stadium in Regina, stated that “GDI gave me (an) opportunity of a lifetime. I am very happy and fortunate to work here on the biggest construction site I have ever seen.” Matthew Buffalo, another Year I Apprentice Carpenter in Regina, said, “Working here has given me a purpose and responsibility that I never had before … I do not know where I could have been at this time if I did not have this opportunity.”

Employer partners have also been making positive comments about their experiences. For example, Wilf Baier, the owner and manager of Bridge City Transmission that employs one of our clients, stated that the partnership is “a win-win situation.” He continues, “They (GDI) gives us wage subsidies that enable me to keep Chevy here (and) are always there for Chevy and to answer my questions.

Feedback from project partners Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways, SATCC, and Dumont Technical Institute; and employer partners have been very positive. They three have all stated that they are confident that the project will meet all its targets. GDI Training and Employment counselors and program coordinators also gave comments on their experience with the initiative and suggested ways for improvement.

Reporting on the project is on course. To date, we have submitted two reports to the Western Economic Diversification Canada. The project expects to surpass its targets before it starts winding down in 2017. For more information please contact Shawn Mahar, Apprenticeship Coordinator, at shawn.mahar@gdite.gdins.org, Toll Free 1-877-488-6888, or via Twitter at @gdins_org.

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Gabriel Dumont Institue

GDI is a Saskatchewan-based educational, employment and cultural institute serving Métis across the province

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