History was made last night when representatives from the Nuxalk Nation and the Industry Training Authority (ITA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the Acwsalcta School on November 22, marking the first MoU the ITA has signed with a First Nations college.
The purpose of the MoU, which is between the Nation, the Nuxalk Acwsalcmalslayc Academy of Learning Society (NAALS) and ITA, is to build on the successes of the existing partnership by establishing a more collaborative relationship between the Nuxalk Nation and ITA.
The MoU aims to identify mutually beneficial training opportunities and collaborations that address the needs of Nuxalk members, increase Nuxalk members’ awareness of and participation in trades training and apprenticeships that lead to achievement of Certificates of Qualification, Certificates of Apprenticeship, and Red Seal endorsement, and support ITA’s understanding and respect for Nuxalk culture.
The Industry Training Authority (ITA) leads and coordinates British Columbia’s skilled trades system. ITA works with employers, apprentices, industry, labourers, training providers and government to issue credentials, supports apprenticeships, fund programs, set program standards and increase opportunities in the trades.
“Currently in BC, there are more than 37,000 registered apprentices, over 10,000 employers who hire apprentices, and 40 post-secondary trades training providers that ITA works alongside to fill exciting opportunities in the skilled trades,” said Susan Kirk, ITA Director of Communications. “Over the next 10 years, there will be more than 70,000 job openings that need skilled tradespeople due to retirements and economic expansion.”
For the past several years the Nuxalk Nation has partnered with ITA, Camosun College and others to deliver its carpentry program. The program has been recognized for its contribution to the community through its construction of energy-efficient homes, day care, construction classroom and storage, “tiny homes,” the NAALS Administration building, and the restaurant.
Future plans include up to 50-60 homes over the next five years, along with a Big House and a cultural centre and museum. The long-term goal is to become a Central Coast Trades Centre and for current apprentices to become instructors.
This is an important first step: through its designation as an ITA-approved institution, the Nuxalk College will be now able to choose the trades it wants to deliver and who they want to run the program.
NAALS Education Administrator Theresa Brook said the Nation has also been approved for a Nuxalk College/Trades Centre feasibility study through Indigenous Services Canada.
“We have been working as a team with the Nuxalk Nation and it really shows,” she said. “It’s an exciting start.”
The advantages and benefits of delivering quality education at home, on Nuxalk territory, was repeatedly recognized by Nuxalk leadership.
“Students no longer have to leave their families, they can study and work right here at home,” said Nuxalk Chief Councillor Wally Webber. “It’s an awesome opportunity for our people.”
Nuxalk Nation Executive Director Wilma Mack said that she welcomed the partnership.
“I can already see the success in our community,” she said. “Nuxalk are going to be able to graduate with degrees and certifications in our community. It’s amazing how much our education system has grown and changed.”
The MoU was signed by ITA’s Director of Indigenous Initiatives, Michael Cameron, Chief Councillor Wally Webber and NAALS Chair Leonard Pootlass Sr.