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First Nations Trade School officially opens

A new First Nations Trade School program at Dennis Franklin Cromarty is teaching students important skills.

THUNDER BAY - A new trade school opened its doors in Thunder Bay, and this school within a school, will provide First Nations youth with a new set of diverse skills to prepare them and their communities for the future.

The First Nations Trade School at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School officially opened on Thursday, with a ceremony at the Thunder Bay high school.

“It’s very exciting to provide new, expanded opportunities for trades experience for the kids from the 24 northern communities that we serve at Dennis Franklin Cromarty,” said Ken Liddicoat, trade school coordinator and technology chair at Dennis Franklin Cromarty.

The First Nations Trade School was a cooperative venture between the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council and Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School and will provide students with skills and training on trade related fields, preparing them for post-secondary education or employment.

“It’s a school within a school,” Liddicoat said. “In order to expand the trades, we worked with NAN and other partner organizations to promote and come up with this concept so it could be applied to other First Nation schools. This is sort of a pilot project.”

With the help of a $500,000 grant from the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, several classrooms at Dennis Franklin Cromarty were upgraded to accommodate automotive, manufacturing, and food and nutrition programs.

According to Liddicoat, there are more than 60 students enrolled in the Trades Program so far. The programming also includes cultural influences in the curriculum, including traditional crafts like bow-making, snowshoe making, and traditional foods.

“It’s one of a kind,” he said. “It’s successful so far. It’s very positive that we get such good subscription to the trade classes in the school.”

The success of the program will not only be measured by the success of the students going on to graduate or find employment, but also the skills they take away and bring to their home communities.

“The entrepreneurial side of it, people will be able to bring these skills that are needed in all communities, not just Thunder Bay,” Liddicoat said. “All the communities they come from require carpenters, and plumbers, and things like that.”

Soda Kakegamic of Keewaywin First Nation is enrolled in the First Nations Trade Program and is working on fixing a truck in the automotive technology class.  

“I enjoy it a lot because it will teach you how to fix vehicles, take them apart and put them back together,” he said. “It’s really useful for when you’re done high school and you go to college. If you want to take automobile mechanic you can come here. Kenny will teach you a lot of stuff. It’s been a really good experience.”

Kakegamic wants to go to college after he graduates and enroll in the police foundations program. He said the skills he has learned in the trades program will help him in his future, but he also looks forward to sharing them when he travels back home.

“It will be really useful because we don’t really have a mechanic back in our reserve,” he said. “So if I learn a lot of stuff about auto mechanics, I can help them out over there, I can get my own job, make my own department, I can help them out with their brakes, engines, whatever they need help with.”

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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