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Assiniboine tuition-free Trades programs deliver opportunities without barriers

At Assiniboine Community College, two tuition-free programs are providing Indigenous learners the skills they need to work in in-demand fields in Manitoba, and giving their respective industries qualified workers who are ready to hit the ground running.

The tuition-free Heavy Duty Technician program welcomed 12 Indigenous students in December 2021, funded through a partnership with Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology and Indigenous Youth Development Canada. Students in this program have completed hands-on, in-school training for 28 weeks plus a 280-hour paid work placement, with tuition, textbooks, personal protective equipment, supplies and tools all covered at no cost.

The tuition-free Agriculture Equipment Operator program provided an opportunity to 15 students starting this past February, funded through a partnership with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP). The 13-week program began with a one-week preparatory course and finishes with an 80-hour paid work placement.

“Costs for training to acquire the skills and aptitudes required for entry into the job market are an ongoing barrier to employment,” said Assiniboine’s Director, Indigenous Education, Kris Desjarlais. “We are thrilled that students won’t have to worry about funding and can enjoy a hands-on learning environment. With this, learners are free to focus on their training.”

Both programs were chosen specifically to address gaps in their respective industries.
The agriculture industry is facing an aging workforce combined with the lack of skilled general farm workers and less people getting into the farm industry, said Brad Hack, Coordinator, Job Skills and Industry Certifications in Assiniboine’s Centre of Continuing Studies. It’s projected that 5,300 agriculture jobs in Manitoba—one in five—will go unfilled by 2029.

The students are learning the safe work practices and operational skills necessary to manage multiple enterprises found on farm operations across the country, Hack said.

“They’ll have a really good base for assisting employers with a farm operation,” Hack said. “After their two-week work placement where they get those real-life environmental skills on an operation, they’ll be job ready.”

It’s also an important step in reconciliation, he said.

“Indigenous people were here first, and know the land better, so let’s try and get more Indigenous people back into working the land and into farming,” Hack said.

“You look at what farming is like now with sustainable development processes and sustainable farming, and those are all Indigenous teachings and how they worked the land years and years ago. We’re kind of getting back to that so I think it’s important to bring Indigenous people back into the conversation.”

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