Area youth learn the tricks of the trades through Cambrian mobile learning centre

WHITEFISH RIVER FIRST NATION—Since earlier this year, 14 youth from Manitoulin to Espanola have been learning plumbing, electrical, welding and carpentry skills through Cambrian College’s Youth Exposure to Skills Trades Program based in Whitefish River First Nation as part of the school’s mobile trades training trailer.

Cambrian was able to bring the program to the area thanks to funding from the province’s Youth Skills Connections Program.

Though the hands on portion of the program began in January at the mobile trailer, students started the program last September with a 30 week in-class component at the community centre working on upgrading, acquiring their Grade 12 or taking college level courses, explained Valita Loyd, the program’s assistant training coordinator.

“The program taught those with multiple barriers to employment introductory skills in carpentry, electrical, plumbing and welding, and will conclude with a two-week job trial/work placement and graduation ceremony,” notes a press release from Cambrian.

For 22-year-old Dean Fox the program was the opportunity he had been waiting for.

“I was waking up every day, not sure what I wanted to do,” Mr. Fox explained to The Expositor. “I wanted to better myself so when I saw the ad (in The Expositor) I jumped on it.”

“I knew it was going to be tough,” continued Mr. Fox, who is from Aundeck Omni Kaning, “but I was so happy I was able to finish. I really need to thank Rick (Richard Jodouin, the course instructor). We start our placement on March 23 and I’m going to the Welding Academy in Sudbury. I would really like to go on to complete a welding program and become an industrial welder and work on skyscrapers.”

Classmate Brad Bourcier from Espanola shared a similar story about the program helping him find his path.

“The program gave me the opportunity to get my Grade 12,” shared the 23-year-old. “I have tried before, but the program really helped. I’ve always been interested in the trades too so it was a win-win. I also hope to get into (a) welding (program).”

Other students who shared their experience also commented on teacher Mr. Jodouin and his commitment to the students. “He was able to get on my level,” said one student.

“It was my first time teaching through the mobile trailer,” said Mr. Jodouin. “The students were really nice and very hard working. It was great teaching them the hands on elements.”

At an open house for the trailer and program last week, the students were able to show off sleds they had created utilizing the electrical, welding and carpentry skills they had learned. They also shared their experience with members of the community and the media, while representatives from Cambrian College demonstrated how the trailer works.

The mobile trades training lab is a 53-foot trailer that deploys in minutes to nearly 1,000 square feet of instructional space, The Expositor learned during the open house. Diesel generators supply power to operate equipment, lighting, heating and air conditioning for more remote deployments. The lab is the first initiative of its kind in Northern Ontario and was designed to accommodate a variety of skilled trades including welding, electrical, millwright and heavy equipment.

The program was made possible thanks to a partnership between Whitefish River First Nation, the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and Vale.