THUNDER BAY - Indigenous youth from across the region are gaining some valuable skills while also discovering what it takes to find a career in the natural resource sector through a unique summer program.
The First Nation Natural Resource Youth Employment and the Outland Youth Employment Program is holding Science Week in Thunder Bay, providing Indigenous youth with interesting and important lessons about the natural resource sector.
“They will be learning lot of science and technology based curriculum,” said Sarah Ambroziak, a program coordinator with Outland Camps. “We are doing GPS, geocaching, an aviation tour, they were at Bora Laskin Law School learning about restorative justice, we are going to be doing some cooking classes at Roots to Harvest.”
“We are including a lot of community organizations to get the youth from remote communities feeling comfortable and accepted in the city.”
Outland Camps offers a six week summer employment program focusing on natural resources management. This year there are 43 students enrolled in the program who will receive two high school co-op credits, as well as all earning a wage.
“It is exposing youth to various topics of education that they otherwise might not have access to, it is getting the youth involved in community activities in Thunder Bay,” Ambroziak said.
Introducing youth to these skills and training early encourages them to possibly pursue a career in natural resources, Ambroziak added, but more importantly, pursue post-secondary education.
“About 67 per cent of graduates end up attending college or university,” she said. “On a larger scale, it’s employing Indigenous youth for six weeks in a meaningful way, which is great.”
Ambroziak said that 87 per cent of students who pursue post-secondary education or training end up in natural resource management in the north.
“It is preparing them for jobs that are away from their families, jobs in remote camps, jobs in remote areas,” she continued. “It is building those skills to be away from home for extended periods of times.”
For 16-year-old Zoey Sawdo, who is originally from Lac des Mille Lac First Nation, the program has taught her a lot of valuable lessons, from first aid to confidence building.
“I’ve noticed a lot of people are getting a lot more confidence,” she said. “Being out and making friends. You are in this camp with a bunch of people, so you have to get along with them. People are getting more confident.”
Zoey said she is interested in a career in the natural resources sector and the camp is a great way to find out what her options are and how to get there.
“I was thinking something like firefighting or maybe even tree planting,” she said. “I came here to see if I was interested in it and we get all the training. I like being in the bush. It’s a nice experience. I like being outdoors.”
“We are also learning a lot of things you wouldn’t learn in your daily life in the city just going to a normal high school,” Zoey added. “A lot of stuff about jobs and basic training you could not get.”
The camp continues this summer and will wrap up on Aug. 23 and closing ceremonies will take place at Confederation College.