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New Brunswick launches program to assist First Nations students become job-ready

WATCH: Four universities in New Brunswick are working with the government and First Nations communities to help pave the way for Indigenous students. Megan Yamoah has more.

New Brunswick launched a new program on Wednesday that aims to assist First Nations students become job-ready while supporting employers looking to recruit qualified, experienced employees.

The initiative, known as FutureReadyWabanaki, is a partnership between the New Brunswick government and all four of the province’s publicly-funded universities.

The program was announced in Fredericton and will provide on-the-job training prior to graduation to improve job readiness for students in their field of study.

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Nadia Wysote, an accounting student at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), says her placement with a First Nations non-profit organization helped her gain experience and get in touch with her culture.

“A lot of the time Indigenous students don’t really know where to look for employment. I think with FutureReadyWabanaki, that gives them a stance after they graduate to have things on their resume that directly aligned with what they were studying in school,” she said.

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“When I think about being an Indigenous student, I think of my ancestors and the resilience and strength they had.”

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The province’s minister of post-secondary education said FutureReadyWabanaki is a program that will help find more people for the province’s workforce.

N.B. students taught that ‘every child matters’ by First Nation elder
N.B. students taught that ‘every child matters’ by First Nation elder

“Being a partner in FutureReadyWabanaki is one of the ways we can prepare Aboriginal youth for rewarding careers while developing skilled employees,” said Trevor Holder in a press release.

Ethan Augustine is a biology student at UNB and said his placement allowed him to preserve the dwindling number of salmon and eel.

“I was learning a whole bunch of invaluable skills, both in the lab and in the field. If I had started an honours thesis without knowing those things beforehand, I wouldn’t have been in the same position as I am today,” said Augustine.

READ MORE: N.B. students taught that ‘every child matters’ by Elsipogtog First Nation elder

St. Thomas University president Dawn Russel says the program gives the university’s more than 170 Indigenous students a chance to turn their skills into action.

“For the most part, they are going to discover they can do it and that will build their personal confidence,” said Russell.

FutureReadyWabanaki now needs more employers to join the program, providing spots for potential future employees.

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Augustine said students should not pass up the opportunity as he now says he has a blueprint for his future.

“Finish and successfully defend my honours thesis, get into grad school and graduate with a master’s degree, potentially a PhD,” he said, describing his future plans.

“[I’m] not sure yet if I’m going to go that far, but we’ll see.”