NSCC and Native Council cooperate on employment

NSCC grads, Darren Prosper and Candice Sylliboy, pose in Cape Breton for a picture taken for the sucess story published on the college's website. (Photo supplied by: Candice Sylliboy)

The Nova Scotia Community College and the Native Council of Nova Scotia are plotting to advance employment opportunities for the province's First Nations people and reduce the looming labour shortage.

The pair signed a memorandum of understanding in November that aspires to meet these objects and will meet in the new year to discuss how to accomplish its goals.

"The aboriginal community will play a role in filling those needs - the growth will be from aboriginal people," says Reg Hurst from his Truro office.

Hurst signed the deal for the economic development agency at the NCNS. The council serves Nova Scotia's Mi'kmaq/Aboriginal Peoples who reside on traditional homelands, off-reserve.

N.S. aboriginals younger

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While the total Nova Scotia population has changed little from 2001 until 2006, the aboriginal population has jumped 42 per cent.

Current aboriginal programs at the NSCC

· Tourism Management in association with 7 Generations

· Mainland Construction Technical Program in association with the Aboriginal Skills Employment Partnership

· Level 1 Tourism Program in association with 7 Generations

· Early Childhood Education is being offered in Eskasoni

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It is no secret that Nova Scotia is facing a shrinking workforce with a large number of baby boomers primed to retire. The 2006 census notes the median age of Nova Scotia's total population is 41.6 while the median age of Nova Scotia's aboriginal population is significantly younger at 25.4. In addition, it has grown at a much faster rate jumping 42 per cent from 2001 to 2006.

"We have a population in Nova Scotia that's getting older (...) really the group that will lead the way is aboriginal people," says Michael Kelloway, NSCC's manager of business development in Sydney, N.S.

Kelloway says the college wants to help the First Nation community take on that leading role with adequate training for jobs that will be in high demand.

To accomplish this, it will enlist the help of industry experts and aboriginal groups like the economic development agency in order to share information and knowledge about labour market prospects.

"We will sit down and scope out what opportunities are out there in the next year."

Past plans pay off

It is not the first time that the NSCC has developed programs to meet community needs and offer career choices to communities; and, more specifically, the aboriginal community.

In 2005 it offered a 15-week training course called Introduction to Disabilities. Candice Sylliboy and Darren Prosper, Whycocomagh residents are two of the program's graduates. The couple now work together in their home community at Mawita'mk Society helping and caring for disabled people.

"It plays a big part in my life," says 25-year-old Sylliboy of her work as a support worker; a job she describes as fulfilling.

Sylliboy returns to work after her maternity leave is done in January. Being able to work and contribute to their community has become even more important to Sylliboy and Prosper, who have been dating since Grade 11, and had their first child earlier this year.

Both have successfully completed a number of NSCC programs and Sylliboy would like to take more courses, perhaps online. Two of Prosper's sisters are also taking courses at NSCC and one of Sylliboy's friends is taking plumbing.

"We pushed them to go there," she says.

With more training options on the way at the NSCC, it may take less coaxing.

Kelloway says that the NSCC is "not looking at training for training purposes." He wants to train students for industries that are saying "if you train them, we'll hire them."

In next month's meeting, it will be this promise that will shape the memorandum's next steps and influence what courses the NSCC will offer to prepare the aboriginal community and fill Nova Scotia's employment gap.

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