The Province is providing the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) with $1.97 million to help Aboriginal youth with multiple barriers to employment find work through a unique experience that is rich in culture and heritage.
BRIDGES (Building Resources for Innovative Development, Growth and Economic Stability) will, in partnership with the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, provide individualized employment services to 140 Okanagan (Syilx) Aboriginal youth, aged 15 to 30 years, with a focus on their First Nations heritage in a culturally rich, on-the-land experience. The goal is to break down systemic barriers to employment for Aboriginal youth and to find new and innovative ways to help them join the labour market.
They will accomplish this through the support of First Nations elders to learn about their heritage, as well as employment mentors who will identify barriers each individual faces and work to help them move past those barriers. When they are ready, participants will enter job placements with local employers in a field of their choice, with the support of the BRIDGES team to help them reach their goals.
This is a first-of-its-kind project in British Columbia. Its employment and educational outcomes will be put side by side with a group of clients of similar age and background to compare results and find best practices for offering employment services to Aboriginal youth who face multiple barriers to employment.
A 2012 study by the Industry Training Authority entitled “Barriers and Successful Approaches to Preparing and Employing Aboriginal Trades People” influenced the design of the project. The study stressed the need for innovation at the grassroots, community level to address obstacles holding back potential workers and to help solve the gaps and barriers that prevent Aboriginal youth from accessing training programs. These gaps and barriers include educational prerequisites, employment readiness, access to transportation and funding for training, as well as employer willingness to sponsor apprentices.
The three-year project will end with a final report on its findings, a plan to address low labour-market participation, and a summary of how the approach to employment services can be made into a template for other Aboriginal communities to address their own youth employment needs.
Funding for the project is provided through the Research and Innovation (R&I) stream of the Community and Employer Partnerships program.
The R&I stream provides funding for time-limited, research-oriented projects that put forward untried and untested approaches to labour-market problems that improve upon current ways of helping people prepare for, obtain or maintain employment and help move more clients into sustainable jobs.
Community and Employer Partnerships are featured in B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint and provide more support to people who are struggling to gain a foothold in the job market. These projects build stronger partnerships with industry and labour to connect British Columbians with classroom and on-the-job training, while making it easier for employers to hire the skilled workers they need – when and where they need them.
Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation –
"Providing Okanagan Aboriginal youth with a culturally rich experience, will enable participants to become integral contributors to Canada’s leading economy right here in British Columbia. I’m happy to partner with the Okanagan Nation Alliance and UBCO on this innovative project as we continue to help all British Columbians gain the skills and confidence needed to find jobs they can be proud of.”
Premier Christy Clark, MLA for Westside-Kelowna –
“As we continue building Canada’s leading economy, we’re not just creating jobs, but making sure British Columbians from across the province have the opportunity to take advantage of them. That’s why we’re working with First Nations to help Aboriginal youth break down barriers to building the lives they want.”
Linda Larson, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen –
“We’re partnering with the Okanagan Nation Alliance and UBC-Okanagan for BRIDGES to find new ways to support youth in finding success in their lives. This is a fantastic initiative that I am proud to support as we help Aboriginal youth in the Okanagan work toward reaching their goals.”
John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation –
“BRIDGES is an exciting and innovative way of breaking down barriers and filling skills gaps for young people who face multiple barriers to employment. I’m confident that once this approach of focusing on culture and heritage is used, other First Nations communities will be able to use it as a template toward the success of their own members.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Okanagan Nation Alliance –
“The BRIDGES project provides educational and training opportunities for our Nation to assert and lead in the development of innovative projects such as this that have meaning for our people. They are culturally appropriate, which is key in moving forward. This pre-employment youth strategy project will advance the needed changes in current youth employment programs that do not serve our youth as successfully as they should. We are certain that by utilizing and incorporating Syilx Indigenous knowledge and practices as a basis to this project it will lead to greater success for our youth.”
Chief Clarence Louie, Osoyoos Indian Band –
“I firmly believe every native person needs to be in a good-paying job. Jobs are a big part of a healthy lifestyle. First Nations societies come from a working culture, where every person worked and contributed to their community. I want my people to have opportunity, which BRIDGES is providing. This is another step for my people to be self-sufficient.”
Pauline Terbasket, executive director, Okanagan Nation Alliance –
“Reconnecting our youth to their culture, language and the land will move our young people forward to find their way and envision their future.”
- Local WorkBC Employment Services Centres play a lead role in connecting eligible job seekers to Community and Employer Partnerships opportunities in their communities. Once the right match of client to project has been found, the effort of the WorkBC Centre continues by providing financial supports and services to ensure success.
- In 2016-17, the ministry has committed to investing $331 million in employment and labour-market programs under the Employment Program of BC.
- The Employment Program of BC is funded by the Province of British Columbia as well as the Government of Canada through the Labour Market Development Agreement.
- Funding supports 84 WorkBC Employment Services Centres throughout the province and the five components of the Community and Employer Partnerships fund:
- Job Creation Partnerships
- Labour Market Partnerships
- Project-Based Labour Market Training
- Research and Innovation
- Social Innovation
Who is eligible for Community and Employer Partnerships funding?
- Non-profit organizations
- Crown corporations
- Municipalities, agencies or territorial governments
- Bands/tribal councils
- Public health and educational institutions
To find out more about the BC Jobs Plan: www.engage.gov.bc.ca/bcjobsplan/
For more information on Community and Employer Partnerships: www.workbc.ca/CEP
Find a local WorkBC Employment Services Centre: www.workbccentres.ca
Learn more about the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation: www.gov.bc.ca/sdsi
Scott McKenzieMedia Relations
Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation