In British Columbia, a remarkable achievement is illuminating the path to a brighter future.
Last month, the first all-Indigenous class of electrical apprentices completed all four levels of technical training in Canada, sparking a significant milestone for both Indigenous communities and the skilled trades industry.
On August 18, a special Witnessing Ceremony at The Westin Bayshore was organized by ACCESS (Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society) gathering friends, family, dignitaries, and industry to celebrate. The event embraced the beautiful tapestry of Indigenous culture and traditions with blessings from the Elders, songs, and a blanketing ceremony to symbolize the apprentices’ achievements, contributions to their communities, and protection for the next step in their journey.
Many of these students are the first in their families to pursue a post-secondary education. They had to overcome various challenges to reach the last stage of their studies, including a global pandemic and the devastating discovery of Indigenous mass burials. “Despite these obstacles, they have defied the odds, reaching a significant milestone for themselves, their families, our community and for the country,” expressed Lynn White, CEO at ACCESS. Their accomplishments showcase the strength of perseverance and the capacity to overcome adversity, while carving their own path.
ACCESS is an Indigenous training provider, dedicated to supporting urban Indigenous people in overcoming employment barriers and finding rewarding career opportunities. ACCESS has been there since the beginning of the journey, guiding apprentices into the electrical trades and delivering wraparound supports and resources to help them succeed. Over the years, ACCESS has supported more than 700 Indigenous apprentices to build meaningful careers in just the skilled trades industry alone.
Electrical trades are often regarded as one of the more academically challenging trades training programs. SkillPlan paved the way for students who didn’t meet the program’s traditional prerequisites, offering essential skills training, refresher courses and tutoring. With the support of EJTC and its dedicated instructors, apprentices worked hard over the past four-plus years to complete all levels of technical training. In addition, an important partnership with the IBEW 213 helped connect each student with employment opportunities, allowing them to gain work experience towards certification. The morning of the ceremony, each apprentice took their Interprovincial exam and now await their results to become future Red Seal Electricians.
With projections of more than 83,000 skilled trades jobs over the next eight years in B.C., a world of opportunity beckons for these trailblazers. They are not only poised to step into the role of skilled professionals, but also as role models and mentors to lead the next generation of apprentices.
“You are not just trailblazing a career for yourself. Your cohort has trailblazed a different way of doing trades training, and that’s something that has been noticed, nationally, across the country,” said the Honourable Andrew Mercier, Minister of State for Workforce Development.
Successful partnerships such as these play a pivotal role in empowering Indigenous communities and take crucial steps toward building true and meaningful reconciliation.
This past year, SkilledTradesBC has seen a 27 percent increase of Indigenous people entering trades apprenticeships across the province. We are proud to support and fund programs and initiatives to build a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable skilled trades training system and workforce that meets the needs of every single British Columbian. As a provincial crown corporation, we are grateful to have the opportunity to operate across a diverse province of 203 communities and 35 nations and we are committed to supporting and working with Indigenous peoples to establish a clear and sustainable path to lasting reconciliation.
This achievement was made possible through the partners, funders and sponsors of:
the Government of Canada through the Canada-British Columbia Workforce Development Agreement.
Above photo source: ACCESS Photographer: Jessie Robertson Photography
(August 18, 2023 – Access Witnessing Ceremony for Electrical Apprentices. Opening prayer led by Elder Latash)