Sherry Flamont used to work in retail, but the second year carpentry apprentice at Construction Careers Regina, a branch of Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, knows construction pays better. And there’s another reason she’s chosen this career path.
“It just seems easier to get into now, it seems more accepting so it’s a lot easier to apply for the programs and for work,” she said.
She says more First Nations people, especially women, are beginning to see that. She was on a jobsite at a transition house recently when she realized she was a role model.
“I had a couple of women while I was working saying, ‘oh you’re doing it, you’re doing most of the work; maybe I’ll try out for it. Where did you take it?’ So I told them,” says Flamont.
Now is a good time to get into the skilled trades.
“Companies are hiring left and right right now,” Flamont said. “They’re more willing to take a chance with minorities and what not, so definitely get your foot in the door if you’re willing to work.”
Both the federal and provincial governments are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in jobs training to fill the labour shortage. Much of that money is directed specifically at training for First Nations and Métis people and linking them with employers. FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde says that’s “fantastic,” but he says there is another needed component.
“To make sure they get the skills, they get the training, but as well that they know how to get into that job, be responsible, be on time and maintain it,” he said.
The First Nations Job Fund to which the federal government committed in Thursday’s budget $109 million over the next five years does provide some money for “personalized skills development,” but Bellegarde says the focus also needs to be on closing socio-economic gaps on and off reserve.
“There’s a high cost of poverty and that needs to be addressed and I don’t see that in this budget,” he said.
However, the North Central Family Centre is more optimistic. They anticipate some of that earmarked money to trickle down to organizations like theirs, which deal directly with poverty issues, but would also like to provide more job training.
“Employment skills are something our young people require and really need because there are so many jobs in our community,” said director of programming, Ivan Amichand.
They hope to receive extra funding to partner with companies to provide job shadows, as well as enhance their GED and literacy programs – and perhaps soon, Flamont won’t be the only role model.