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Brian Cooper, working on a curb and gutter, is among the participants in a 26-week on-the-job training program, launched by the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office of Nova Scotia, to learn the basics of concrete finishing.

First Nations communities look
to fill skilled labour needs from within

The Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office of Nova Scotia has partnered with Membertou First Nation to train workers in a 26-week on-the-job training program to learn the basics of concrete finishing.

The work will allow residents of the communities themselves to perform jobs such as forming foundations for new homes and pouring curbs and gutters for new roads, rather than bring in expertise from outside.

Alex Paul, executive director of the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office, said Membertou was looking at upcoming infrastructure projects, "and they approached our office and asked if we would be interested in partnering with it.”

The MEB office and Membertou worked together to fine-tune the proposal. Membertou had already identified the few people in Cape Breton with the skills background needed to do this type of training, Paul noted.

“There’s no training program out there from existing training providers that focuses on this particular aspect - it’s kind of a branch of the carpentry trade,” he said.

There are about 10 new homes built every year in Membertou. Of the new trainees, it is expected that a team of four people will do curb, gutters, and sidewalks as part of the Membertou Public Works Department. The other team of four will do foundation work and report to the Membertou Housing Department.

It’s important to continue to monitor areas where skill shortages exist, Paul said.

“Our communities are growing, we have a very young population and for the longest time our communities have kind of contracted this work outside simply because the skill sets weren’t there and when that was done there was very little opportunity to have community members gain work experience with those people who were coming in and doing the work,” he said.

The program could also be exported to other communities, Paul noted.

The Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office works for all First Nation communities in the area and it is focused on building partnerships with large industry in Nova Scotia. To date, the office has trained more than 900 people and helped create more than 400 jobs for local residents.

Story from the Cape Breton Post

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