Essential Skills
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Since starting work as an apprentice steel fabricator, Rivers' life has changed in many ways, and all for the better.

Success stories:
'Ticket to change,' Rivers Stonechild's story

Rivers Stonechild was working at a Downtown Eastside shelter in Vancouver as an emergency weather relief worker, with irregular hours and shifts  - when he realized he needed to make a change. With a young family and another on the way, he knew his job wasn’t going to be enough...

Rivers heard about ACCESS Trades, an Industry Training Authority-funded program that supports indigenous British Columbians to upgrade their skills.

Because he hadn't been in school for over 12 years, returning at age 32 was a little intimidating. However, Rivers knew that upgrading his skills (he did about six months of  classes in math, reading skills and document-use), and then seeking an apprenticeship was what he wanted to do.

You might think his classes would have been full of late teens and early 20-somethings, but Rivers says half the students were his age or older. "As time went on, I became more and more comfortable with that environment. I found it really enjoyable. There were a lot of good people, the instructors were great."

He also credits the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual support he got from the indigenous services on campus for helping him succeed during his five months in the BCIT metal fabrication foundation pre-apprenticeship program. ACCESS helped fund a living allowance while he was in school, plus tuition & books, tools for entry level positions in trades, as well as public transportation.

Rivers says it's this support that made it possible for him to go into the trades: "It would have been really hard for me to sustain things while I was in school. They even helped a bit with childminding too.”

Since starting work as an apprentice steel fabricator, Rivers' life has changed in many ways. One of the major things was stability.

In a typical day at work as a fitter, Rivers gets material for journeyman, unloads trucks & equipment, among other work. He's currently working at a CNC plasma high definition cutting facility. As an apprentice he's learning on the job: how to run the machines there; all about the material.

When I asked his advice for other people thinking about going into the trades, Rivers had this to say: "It's very important to set goals and follow your dreams, without that you never expand your horizons. Put yourself out there – if you don't, you'll never know. Push yourself, don't be afraid."

“I would say to other Aboriginal people who are just coming into the trades, put your best foot forward,  be persistent, and stay determined.”

“It’s a ticket to change because it provides a better life for you and you family.”

Watch Rivers Stonechild’s video here or click on the video image above.

Source: and

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