B.C.’s Minister of State for Rural Economic Development MLA Donna Barnett was in Riske Creek Monday announcing funding for heavy equipment operation training.
“Today is an exciting day and one I believe will go a long way in helping people find a high paying job in the construction industry,” Barnett said during a gathering held at the Old School Training and Recreation Complex that was developed by Tl’esqox (Toosey) First Nation at the former Riske Creek School about 50 kilometers west of Williams Lake.
The more than $1 million provincial government contribution to the Southern Interior Construction Association (SICA) will be used to help train 36 people — some in the Cariboo-Chilcotin in a program that is already underway and in January for First Nations people in West Kelowna.
“The participants we have here today are just finishing up their classroom instruction portion of the program and will soon be gaining hands-on experience here with the Toosey Indian Band as they rebuild the main road through the reserve and work towards reclaiming the Farwell Canyon gravel pit for future development,” Barnett said. “Residents will benefit from the rebuild of the road by less wear and tear on their vehicles.”
Students in the program.
A shed the students have built that will be moved to become the staging point when work begins on the road and reclaiming the gravel pit.
Barnett told the training participants one of the graduates from a previous training program is earning $38 an hour.
“This proves that through the SICA and Velocity Training it is is a chance for people to find meaningful work,” she said.
SICA vice president of operations Clifford Kshyk said the students in the program received 170 hours of heavy machinery operating time which counts as work experience and makes them eligible for certification.
“These types of training opportunities that come right into our community or close by are very important for our community members,” said Tl’esqox Band councillor Gina Johnny. “The training is also for all neighbouring communities.”
Tl’esqox is one of the smallest of the six Tsilhqot’in Nations with 300 members, Gina said, noting half of them are living off-reserve.
“We have had different types of training here at the Old School and are thankful for the funding we receive,” Gina said as she thanked the band’s forestry and economic development manager Craig Kennedy for his efforts in pursuing funding.
Band councillor Violet Johnny said Velocity Training has given people the opportunity to receive the training they need to become successful.
“Having this training will open doors for new careers,” Violet said.
Praising the students for their willingness to get ahead and improve their lives, band councillor David Stieman said they’ve made a choice that is good for their hearts, brains and bodies.
“It’s a big thing for a small community like ours,” Stieman said. “I have been a councillor off and on since 1996 and I am so proud of these people because in my younger days I did not have the chance to get training.”
It is crucial for band leaders to encourage people to take training, he added.
Program participants Gerald Koehler and Tyman Jobin thanked the instructors for the program.
“The training I am receiving will make me more employable,” Koehler said.
Jobin thanked Kennedy and everyone involved with making the program happen.
“To be taught how something works is amazing to me and I feel it’s very beneficial to us and our futures,” Jobin said. “I like they way they have brought our brothers and sisters from other nations together on our land to learn together. It’s very beneficial for everybody.”
The students are expected to graduate from the program on January 13, 2017.
Tl’esqox Band Councillor Gina Johnny, Patrick Lulua of Nemiah and Tl’esqox community member Gary Stieman close the ceremony with a drumming song.