The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour visited the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council Tuesday morning (March 5) to discuss the federal government's new training programs for Indigenous people.
After years of the tribal council receiving funding for Indigenous training in the area through the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS), the government will be launching the Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program this spring. While the new program will have elements of ASETS, it will also be a 10-year agreement, which Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, says will allow for better planning.
"When you have an agreement that's one, two or three years, it makes it hard for programs to invest in people that sometimes take five, seven or 10 years to get to their outcome," she says. "By agreeing to a 10-year deal with the Government of Canada, the community will be able to do a better assessment of what people want to achieve, how long it's going to take, what kind of resources it will take to get there. And they'll be able to do their own labour market assessment meaning exactly what the chief said: Who wants to take care of the elders? Who would like to build things? Who would like to be a psychologist? And they'll be able to do some of that analysis themselves and plan for a longer runway, which will allow them to get to those goals."
As an ASETS partner since 2010, the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council has received a total of $31.3 million for the job training of over 7,800 Indigenous people in forestry, firefighting, construction, tourism, hospitality, health and fisheries. The new agreement, though it still needs to be finalized, should increase that funding, while still allowing Indigenous people to deliver the training programs themselves.
"It's really been difficult year to year — people don't want to partner with you if you don't know if you're going to be here next year — but now having a longer-term agreement, we can actually begin to develop the strategy and approach that's necessary to actually build the capacity over a long-term period," says Cherlyn Billy, director of ASETS at Shuswap Nation Tribal Council.
"Youth is the biggest population here; I think we service 53 per cent of them, so if you think about that, that's going to get bigger. ... If we look at our median age population, which is 15 in this region, five years from now that will be most of our clients that we're working with. So that's the success I see with this longer-term agreement."
The government has budgeted $2 billion over five years and over $400 million per year ongoing, for the new Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program, which will launch April 1. Their goal is to reduce the skills gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people by 50 per cent and the employment gap by 25 per cent.
Of course, working in the Justin Trudeau cabinet, Hajdu also faced a few questions about the prime minister's viability moving forward after Health Minister Jane Philpott resigned in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
"I think in any organization there can be differences of opinion and approach, but by and large I would say that caucus and the remainder of cabinet is very firmly behind Justin Trudeau," she says. "The prime minister has made extremely important commitments to Canadians which we are fulfilling. Certainly, we mourn the loss of our colleagues, these are great colleagues, but we also have a really important job to do and we'll continue to serve Canadians and go into the next election with optimism."