Mi'kmaq students building expertise in environmental industry

Cape Breton Post
Business News
Tues., Aug. 11, 2009

MEMBERTOU — Cape Breton's First Nations communities have launched an aggressive training program to help local Mi'kmaq seize opportunities within the environmental industry.

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office has contracted the Nova Scotia Community College to deliver a series of environmental training sessions to build expertise in the environmental industry.

The first training class is nearing completion in the community of Waycobah. Fifteen Mi'kmaq students are participating in a 15-week training program which includes eight weeks of classroom training and 10 weeks of on-the-job training. "This class is the first of three environmental monitoring training programs to be put on by NSCC in Unama'ki (Cape Breton) communities this year," Alyssia Jeddore, training support-job coach officer with the Unama'ki office, said in a media release. "We feel there is great employment opportunity in the environmental industry and the Unama'ki communities would like to build an expertise in this sector."

The training program was developed by the national Building Environmental Aboriginal Human Resources organization. "BEAHR was set up by ECO Canada and has undertaken an important task of increasing aboriginal employment in the environmental sector, through career awareness programs, training programs and on the job experience," said Claire LeFebvre, national training program co-ordinator for BEAHR.

LeFebvre is visiting Cape Breton to check out the Unama'ki training program.

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office is a collaborative approach to economic development by five First Nations communities. It is the result of strong aboriginal leadership that recognized the importance of taking a business approach to pursuing economic opportunities.

An immediate opportunity which drove this initiative was the $400-million cleanup of Sydney tar ponds. After years of planning and negotiation, in October 2008, the five Mi'kmaq communities reached an agreement for the first Nova Scotia aboriginal set-asides totalling over $19 million for work to be carried out on the tar ponds project over the next five years.