Moricetown is a Witsuwit’en First Nation near the Bulkley Canyon in northwestern B.C. Approximately 850 members live on-reserve and some 1,100 live off reserve. It is an area often troubled by high unemployment and boom-and-bust economic cycles. Other barriers to employment include the generational impacts of residential schools.
But innovative skills training and adult education programs in the community are helping to generate new pathways to success, including jobs and improved quality of life. “These programs are empowering people to live their dreams with a sense of purpose and hope in the future,” said deputy Chief Sheri Green.
The band’s KyahWorks program is building and enhancing the employment skills of band members by delivering community-directed training close to home.
Now in its second year of operation, KyahWorks provides a variety of academic programming. The University and College Preparation Program has graduated 36 students with their Adult Dogwood and prerequisites to successfully enter post-secondary training. The Pre-Trades Upgrading Program provides students with the academic requirements to enter trades-based training, such as heavy-duty mechanics, construction craft worker and welding, as well as industrial first aid, driver training and environmental monitoring.
So far, more than 158 people have taken training through KyahWorks programs, which have been funded by the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. Students range from 20 to 50 years of age.
“Many people in Moricetown did not receive the basic qualifications and high school prerequisites to enter an advanced training program or gain meaningful, sustainable employment,” said Diane Mattson, executive director of the Kyah Wiget Education Society. “Some have had a negative experience with education in the past and need a 'second chance’ to fulfil course requirements, realize their potential and be instilled with the confidence they need to succeed. We’re working to meet that need.”
There have been many success stories. For example, the woman in her mid-30s with five children who took adult education courses and has now completed her first year of social worker training at the College of New Caledonia; the young man who went on to BCIT to train as a bio-medical engineer; or, the mine worker in his 50s, who decided to come back to school to take adult education courses to help him move forward in his career.
In fact, the entire Moricetown community has benefited tremendously from the KyahWorks training programs because it has helped create a community culture that deeply supports further learning and skills training. As part of this new culture, there’s now even a driving school in the community and every student attending the local secondary school is eligible to receive driver training as part of their studies.
“There has also been a huge reduction in crime and drug use as a result of the skills training and adult education courses,” said Mattson. “Vandalism is now almost non-existent and people in the community are leading healthier, more hopeful lives.”
Sharon PocockMinistry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation