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Program training northwestern Ontario's mining future

Sioux Lookout partnership develops almost 230 workers for the resource sector
Lac Seul First Nation Kejick Bay 1
Kejick Bay, Lac Seul First Nation (Facebook photo)

The organizers and trainers behind a northwestern Ontario program, geared to develop a homegrown mining workforce, are declaring it a “resounding success” after one year.

An April 8 news release said 227 students participated in the Sioux Lookout Friendship Accord Partnership, supporting the development of the Sioux Lookout Mining Centre of Excellence. The participants took part in workshops and programs, including surface diamond driller common core, AZ professional driver, environmental and field monitor, underground hard rock miner, mining essentials, and various customized trade programs.

An upswing in mining and exploration in the region prompted the skills training partnership with an emphasis on boosting Indigenous employment in mining operations. With funding from the province, the program was run through the Sioux Lookout Friendship Accord Economic Development Corporation. Instruction provided by Northern College’s Northern Training Division, the Haileybury School of Mines, and other mining mining organizations to support work placements.

According to the release, 52 per cent of the graduates self-identified as Indigenous.

Two graduation ceremonies were recently held, one in February and a second in Sioux Lookout on March 31. 

The students received money for accommodations and food. Some received a tool kit and PPE to help them in their new trade.

“During training, we overcame; I overcame my fear of heights and my fear of being too old to learn new skills,” said class valedictorian Alicia Matinet in the release. “I’m taking all I learned and applying it to my new construction job. Thank you to all partners who made this program possible. This tuition-free program has given me the opportunity to be trained by brilliant people, build connections, and has made me realize that this is the career that I want.”

Jacob Dockstator, executive director of the Sioux Lookout Friendship Accord Economic Development Corporation, said the intent of the program and partnership focused on removing barriers to education.

“This was our first big project and we were excited to bring all these programs and courses to the region. Sioux Lookout estimates that in the next three years there will be over 12,000 jobs to be filled by a skilled workforce,” he said. “Many participants are already employed, and all students can start their new chapter without debt for their learning.”

Christine Heavens, Northern College’s executive director of community, business development, and employment services, said their collective effort was geared toward helping to fill the ranks in the area’s mining sector.

“Our focus in this partnership was to provide accessible learning options to 146 people in a year’s time,” she said “By combining distance learning, innovative training, and hands-on projects, we were able to far exceed this goal by supporting the training of 227 people.”

“The goal of the partnership was to increase First Nation participation, opportunities, and inclusiveness in regional area mining projects,” stated Chief Clifford Bull of Lac Seul First Nation. “Graduates are proud of their learning and the communities are proud of them. We look forward to continued collaborations to support community-based learning."

The Sioux Lookout Friendship Accord Economic Development Corporation, activated last year, sprang from the Sioux Lookout Friendship Accord, an agreement signed in 2012 involving the Municipality of Sioux Lookout, Lac Seul and Slate Falls First Nations. The alliance later was expanded to include Cat Lake First Nation and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug.