It’s impossible to teach an old dog new tricks but never too late in life for someone to learn something new.

So, whether you have thought about going back to school to train for a new career, finish a degree or diploma that you let slide in the past, learn a new language or take on a program for the sheer joy of learning, now is the time to stop thinking about it and start applying.

So, if your passion lies in arts or science, a trade or a professional career, there is a myriad of courses, programs, trade schools, Cegeps and universities out there.

Starting with what is available in the north, here is a selection of programs either designed specifically with Crees in mind or for those who want to study Aboriginal culture more in depth.

Programs Created for Crees

To fulfill the employment demand within Eeyou Istchee’s economy, the Cree School Board (CSB) developed its own vocational school that is not only adapted to the lifestyle and culture of Crees, but geared at getting Crees working upon graduation.

Located in Waswanipi, the CSB’s Regional Vocational Training Centre offers a wide variety of courses to choose from as well as residences in either single or family formats so that everyone is accommodated.

If you’re looking to retrain for a new career while staying within the comfort of Eeyou Istchee, peruse the following courses and apply for one of them.

Accounting: This 1350-hour program is ideal for those who want to learn basic accounting skills, such as calculation and preparation of bills, invoices, receipts and payments for a business. The program features instruction on how to manage petty cash, produce payrolls, price calculation, accounting tasks and fiscal year-end activities, income tax form preparation and accounting systems. This program is ideal for anyone who looking to do basic accounting in business or as a first step to prepare for higher learning in accounting.

Health, Assistance and Nursing: Though this program does not graduate registered nurses, it is an ideal for those who wish to work under a nursing staff as a practical nurse or nurse’s aid. Graduates from this program can also work with medical practitioners or other healthcare workers in a variety of different facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes, extended-care facilities, rehabilitation centres, doctors’ offices, clinics, companies, private homes and community health centres.

This 1800-hour course will help those who take the training perform basic nursing tasks though within a limited scope. Examples of these tasks would be taking vital signs, applying aseptic techniques including sterile dressing, ensuring infection control, monitoring nutritional intake and conducting specimen collection. With this kind of training, you could also administer medication and observe its effects, provide pre-operative and post-operative personal and comfort care and monitor established respiratory therapy and intravenous therapy.

This particular course is ideal for those looking to see if the medical field is right for them and is great for those looking to continue their training to become registered nurses.

Carpentry: With construction booming in the north, carpentry is a sure bet for those looking for a rewarding career. Carpentry is all about working with wood so a graduate of this program would be constructing, erecting, maintaining and repairing wood structures, wood substitutes and other materials.

This 1350-hour program is geared towards ensuring that its graduates can perform at an acceptable level of output. The kinds of tasks it will enable graduates to do, include concrete forms, wood frames and steel bulkheads, projects that involve making joints, assembly work, erecting and repairing wood and metal parts, applying interior and exterior finishes and landscaping projects.

Professional Cooking: This course prepares the students to work in a variety of professional kitchens, such as restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, Elders’ homes and other facilities that produce food in a professional environment.

In this 1350-hour program, students will learn safe and proper food preparation, how to use cooking tools and kitchen equipment, appropriate cooking techniques, preparation of fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, game, fish and seafood. Plus, they will learn to make soups, basic dough, pastries, hors d’oeuvres and entremets and showpieces for cold buffets. Students will also learn to prepare and serve various menus such as breakfast, table d’hôte, à la carte and buffets.

Hairdressing: Those with a flair for style and are good with their hands, hairdressing is a trusted trade that incorporates both precision and creativity.

Students in this 1455-hour program will learn the skills required to perform hairdressing using all of the hygiene, health and safety guidelines in the profession. They will also learn about caustic and corrosive products used in the field, how to analyze a client’s scalp and hair, how to counsel the customer when it comes to selecting a style that goes with their face, look and personality, colouration techniques, cutting, setting and styling. They also learn tasks such as trimming and shaving of beards, sideburns and moustaches and also how to do reception and sales tasks.

Household Appliance Repair: For those who are handy or love to repair broken appliances, this 1350-hour program may just be the thing for you. The program serves as a basic repair course for small and large appliances, such as electrical lawn and garden equipment, power tools, refrigerators and air conditioners.

Graduates work in a variety of places such as repair shops, appliance service companies and repair departments of retail and wholesale establishments. This program not only teaches students the repair aspect of this industry but how to deal with their clients when it comes to writing up estimates, consulting the customer and how to read work orders.

Computing Support: This 1800-hour program is all about learning how to provide support to customers experiencing difficulty with computers. It teaches students basic Information Technology, which includes computing and network establishment, operation and maintenance. Students will learn how to coordinate wide area networks (LANs and WANs), mainframe networks, hardware, software and related computer equipment. Students will also learn web technician skills to set up and maintain internet and intranet websites and web server hardware and software, and monitor and optimize network connectivity and performance. Graduates can work in any form of business that requires in-house IT services – from small to large-scale businesses. Supervisors of computer and network operators and web technicians are included in this group.

Heavy Equipment Mechanic: Heavy-equipment mechanics repair and maintain the kind of equipment that is currently in regular use in the north and found on construction and mining sites. Those who take this 1800-hour course learn the necessary skills to check and repair a variety of heavy equipment to ensure that it is safely functioning onsite. This program includes maintenance of hydraulic clutches, ordinary and semi-automatic transmissions, hydraulic brakes, steering gear boxes, clutches of direction, the suspensions and the driving shafts of the tractors, heavy trucks and other machines on building sites. It also includes the maintenance of diesel engines. People in this field not only seek out the cause of equipment breakdowns, they also work to prevent them through proper machine maintenance.

Class 1 Truck Driving: Anyone who has ever yearned for a life on the road and enjoys solitude might just want to invest in the 615-hour truck-driving course. Students will learn defensive and fuel-efficient driving, courtesy behind the wheel, professionalism in the field, time management, handling of unexpected events and emergencies and positive image projection. This course is ideal for anyone who has ever wanted to travel on wheels independently.

Plumbing and Heating: If you’re looking for a career in plumbing and heating, this 1500-hour course might just be the thing. It trains students to identify, install, maintain, repair and modify drainage systems, venting systems, and hot-and-cold water supply systems. Students will need to learn and understand the Québec Plumbing Code. Students will also learn how to solve problems relating to water heaters, interpret plumbing and heating plans for single and multiple-unit residences; to install, adjust and maintain pumps; to assess the needs related to the installation of a septic tank and to test for water tightness.

Cabinet Making: Since no home is complete without cabinets, cabinetmakers are in demand wherever houses are being built. This 1650-hour program is ideal for anyone looking to make simple cabinets for new homes. Students will learn to design and make patterns, templates, jigs and fixtures for cabinets. They will also learn to make wood furniture, furniture with carved, veneered or curved parts, furniture made of sheet materials, decorative woodwork and staircases; install finished pieces; carve simple designs; repair and restore furniture. Those looking to go further in this field can seek out an apprenticeship outside of the communities where they can train under another individual to achieve the title of master cabinetmaker.

While all of these courses have been offered at the Regional Vocational Training Centre in the past, some are not offered every year. For more info:

Niskamoon and You!

In 2004, the Niskamoon Agreement allowed for the creation of non-profit organization, the Niskamoon Corporation.

While the corporation has many functions, one of them they are best known for is the facilitation of training programs intended to streamline Crees into technical vocations for positions created specifically for Crees within Hydro-Québec.

Niskamoon offers four different courses within this specific program that will lead to jobs within Hydro-Québec – two are vocational and two are technical. For those whose academic history does not meet the criteria for these programs, upgrading courses are also provided by Niskamoon as well as French courses so that Cree students can make it from the classroom to the workforce as fast as possible.

The two Vocational (DEP) programs are the Automated Systems Electro-Mechanics (DEP 5281) and the Industrial Construction and Maintenance Mechanics (DEP 5260). Both programs are two years long.

The Automated Systems Electro-Mechanics is administered at the Centre Polymétier in Rouyn-Noranda. The course is taught in French and requires that applicants have completed Secondary 4 or that they be 18 years old and pass a General Development Test with Secondary 4 Math and/ or pass a High School Equivalency Test and that they be fluent in French.

The Industrial Construction and Maintenance Mechanics program is taught at the Centre de formation professionnelle de la Jamésie in Chibougamau. The course is also taught in French and applicants are required to have completed Secondary 4 or that they be 18 years old and pass a General Development Test with Secondary 4 Math and/ or pass a High School Equivalency Test. This program also requires French fluency.

The two Technical Programs offered through Niskamoon are the Industrial Electronics in Instrumentation and Automation and the Electronics Technology in Telecommunications/ Computers. Both these programs are three years long and students will graduate with a college diploma.

The Industrial Electronics in Instrumentation and Automation course is taught at the CÉGEP de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue in Rouyn-Noranda. The course is taught in French and applicants are required to have a High School Diploma with Math 436 and Physical Science 436 and they must fluent in French.

Currently, the Electronics Technology in Telecommunications/ Computers is seeking a new venue of instruction. The requirements for this program however remain a High School Diploma with Math 436 and Physical Science 436 and all applicants must be fluent in French.

For more info:

Programs for Crees in Chibougamau

Just a hop, skip and a jump away from several Cree communities, the City of Chibougamau offers a handful of courses that are specifically designed for Crees and jobs within the Cree nation.

New this year, the Business and Community Service of the Centre d’études collégiales à Chibougamau (CÉCC) has completely revamped its forestry and environment program in collaboration with the Cree nation to offer something special.

The brand-new Environmental Management Program will be offered for the first time this September and it is designed specifically for environmental management within the Cree nation. Students will learn about environmental development, interpretation, wildlife protection and conservation to lead to careers in environment, forestry, wildlife management and ecotourism.

This exciting program will first focus on classroom theory but also offer practical on-the-job training in various different settings throughout Chibougamau and the Eastmain-1-A–Sarcelle–Rupert hydropower project site. This four-year-long, 2700-hour program will begin on August 22 for the first time ever and, of course, Cree students will get their two weeks off for Goose Break, like every program adapted for the Crees.

For those who are not quite ready to take the plunge into a proper career-driven program, the CÉCC offers upgrading courses so that students can get the proper academic credits to get into other programs. At the CÉCC, this program is called Ashuugan and it is ideal for those who are just transitioning into collegial studies.

There are also other programs offered at the CÉCC through the Cégep de Saint-Félicien, which have been adapted to the needs of Cree students.

Their revolutionary Nursing program that began in 2008 will soon be graduating its first crop of Cree nurses in the spring of 2012. They will all graduate as registered nurses and will be able to practice anywhere within the Cree communities.

Not only is this the only English-language Nursing program available in James Bay, rather than offering the regular three-year registered nursing program, Saint-Félicien offers a four-year program has been adapted to accommodate both the educational and cultural needs of Cree students. This is the same program offered by l’Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec which usually runs two years in other institutions.

With the more drawn-out course schedule, Crees caring for young children or family Elders can still go to school and attend to those who need it most simultaneously.

The Ministry of Education, Cégep de Saint-Félicien, Cree Human Resources Development, Cree School Board, Cree Health Board and Emploi-Québec worked as partners to create this program as a means of addressing the Cree communities need to hire 100 new nurses.

Also there are CÉCC programs for those interested in working with children. For those interested in either getting a job or advancing their position within a daycare centre, the Childhood Educator program is offered. Similarly, for those interested in working within the school system to aid children with special needs, the Special Needs Educator program is also available.

For those interested in seeing their community infrastructure improve, a Civil Engineering program is also available as a one-year program of 1260 hours. Designed to get Cree students into the job market quickly, this program is geared towards road and municipal work inspection and quality control. With the large amount of roadwork to be done in and around James Bay’s communities, job possibilities are literally limitless.

To find more info on these programs, visit and or contact your local guidance department.


For those who don’t want to leave the north for their education, many Crees and Aboriginals from other Nations choose to hit the books in Val-d’Or. It’s the city that always has several familiar Cree faces, a social network established through the Friendship Centre of Val-d’Or as well as many Cree enterprises.

The Cégep de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue offers its own Access to College program geared at getting those who may not have all of the necessary college entry credentials get what they need. While taking part in this program, students have access to the First Nations Student Services (FNSS) department to brush up on their studying skills and to get help adapting to their new situation.

Because finding housing in Val-d’Or can be unbelievably difficult, the FNSS department also helps students acquire housing. This world-class facility also provides students with a bevy of other services to help First Nations students get on top of the game. Best of all, these programs are housed in the college’s state-of-the-art First Nations building that is shared with the Aboriginal students from l’Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

For more info:

For those interested in higher learning, l’Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue offer a series of certificate and bachelors programs available in English that are specifically for First Nations students.

Under their programs for First Nations, UQAT offers certificates in Administration, Accounting and Human Resource Management as well as a Multidisciplinary certificate which allows students to improve their knowledge for communication and management.

Also in English, UQAT offers two different Bachelors programs – one in Preschool Education and Primary Teaching and a Bachelors of Social Work.

Of course, for those looking to improve their second or third language skills, all of these programs are also offered in French.

Colleges and Cegeps in the south of Quebec

Whether you want a specific career program or you are looking to do the standard two years of pre-university courses to be able to hit the academic big league, there is a wide array of post-secondary institutions to choose from in Quebec.

John Abbott College

John Abbott College is the choice for students looking to study in Montreal’s picturesque suburban borough of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue and is the only English-language Cegep in southern Quebec that offers a special program designed to help Cree students integrate into college life and academia. The Pathways to a Career Program for Cree Students is a one-year academic program where students get to earn credits towards their DEC (Diplôme d’études collégiales) and it offers them social support at the same time.

Through this program students can work on improving their English-language skills while looking into different programs that they may want to enroll in the following year. When these students enter into the college’s regular programming, they will already have a head start on their DEC, having already completed some courses, which will lighten their course load in subsequent semesters.

For more info:

Also offered at John Abbott is the Police Technology for First Nations and Inuit Students program. Designed specifically for the needs of Aboriginal communities, this an intensive 900-hour credit course program for First Nations and Inuit students only. The program leads to an Attestation d’études collégiales (A.E.C.) in Police Technology. Those who complete this course successfully will be qualified to attend the 17-week basic training program at the École nationale de police du Québec in Nicolet to become police officers.

John Abbott also offers are a handful of very important career programs: Dental Hygiene, Information and Library Technologies, Youth and Adult Correctional Intervention and Pre-Hospital Emergency Care.

For those who are already working but want to brush up on those computer skills, John Abbott is also the only Cegep to offer part-time Information Technology courses that would help individuals in any career field who doesn’t know computers already.

For more info:

Dawson College

Located in downtown Montreal, Dawson College is a Cegep known for its excellence in a wide variety of technical and career programs and its strength in pre-university courses. With nearly 10,000 fulltime students and over 50 programs to chose from, Dawson has it all for those looking for an education in an urban environment.

Dawson is known for its competitive Fine Arts program and it’s the only English Cegep in Montreal to offer a pre-university travel/tourism program.

In terms of career and technical programs, Dawson offers a wide range of arts, design, specialized medical and information technology programs that other Cegeps do not. They include: 3D Animation and Computer Generated Imagery, Illustration and Design, Industrial Design, Graphic Design, Professional Photography, Professional Theatre, Biomedical Laboratory Technology, Civil Engineering Technology, Diagnostic Imaging, Electronic Engineering Technology, Laboratory Technology-Analytical Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Radiation Technology, Community Recreation Leadership Technology, Computer Science Technology and Social Service.

For more info:

Vanier College

For those looking to study in an urban setting but not quite looking for the fast-paced life of downtown Montreal, Vanier College is the place to study.

Being adjacent to the action doesn’t come without its advantages. If you are musically inclined, Vanier is the only one of the four public anglophone Cegeps that offers fully accredited music programs. Vanier also offers a number of double DECs where students can do all of the core courses in two different domains in a three-year period as pre-university courses. This includes a Modern Languages and Music Double DEC as well as double DECs for Science and Music and Social Science and Music.

In terms of career programs, Vanier has its portfolio of programs that are not offered at other institutions. This includes: Animal Health Technology, Architectural Technology, Building Systems Engineering Technology, Computerized Systems Technology, Early Childhood Education, Environmental and Wildlife Technology, Industrial Electronics, Office Systems Technology: Micropublishing and Hypermedia, Professional Music and Song Techniques, Respiratory & Anesthesia Technology and Special Care Counseling.

For more info:

Champlain College (St. Lambert, Lennoxville, St. Lawrence)

If you want to stay away from the big city, Champlain College offers three options to students – their St. Lambert campus on the south shore of Montreal, their Lennoxville campus in Sherbrooke and their St. Lawrence in Quebec City.

While studying at Champlain’s St. Lambert campus, students can take the regular pre-university programs but some offer unique focuses that other colleges do not. For example their Social Science programs offer special focuses that students can choose from such as: criminology, commerce, education, psychology or world studies.

Their Creative Arts, Literature and Languages program also offers two focused areas to choose from: a Creative Arts option or a Modern Languages option.

In terms of career programs, Champlain offers several unique options that are not found at other schools. Under the Business Management certificate there are specializations in both Advertising Management and Sport Marketing Management. Also offered as career programs are: Graphic Communications, Tourism Management and Programming for Web.

At their Lennoxville campus, Champlain offers the standard pre-university programs as well as career programs for Nursing, Special Care Counseling, Accounting and Management Technologies and CIS Mobile Information Technology.

For more info: (for St. Lambert) and (for Lennoxville) and (for St. Lawrence)

Heritage College

For those out in the Gatineau region, Heritage College is the way to go! While Heritage offers the same basic pre-university courses and career programs as other Cegeps, it also features something interesting to those looking to come back to school.

For those who have been out in the work force or who have never completed college, Heritage has recently begun offering a Recognition of Acquired Competencies service that can assess an applicant’s competencies.

Those looking to attend Heritage can now have their competencies (skill set, knowledge and/or behaviour) recognized as equivalent to program pre-requisites. This online tool can offer students assessments for the following programs: Accounting and Management Technology, Computer Science, Electronics Technology and Early Childhood Care and Education as well as the following AEC programs: Bilingual Office Administration, Microsoft Network 2003 with Linux, and Web and Desktop Programming.

For more info:

Going Private

While Quebec offers a large number of tuition-free programs, some students opt to go private to get special perks such as smaller classes and more individual attention or to streamline their studies in a special career program. There are far too many to mention, but here is a sample of what’s out there privately.

Marianopolis College

For those looking to do pre-university courses only and who have either spent their secondary education in a private institution or are simply looking for a more intimate environment for their education, Marianopolis is Montreal’s best pick.

Offering the standard Science, Social Science, Commerce, Creative Arts, Literature & Languages, Music, Arts & Science and Music pre-university programs, Marianopolis has a number of double-DEC programs for those looking to challenge themselves

For more info:

Inter Dec College / Lasalle College

These two sister-schools offer a unique variety of career programs for those looking to get right into the job market or would like another certificate to complement the education that they have already obtained elsewhere.

Both schools specialize in different areas. Inter Dec offers career training in a number of fields but does not provide students with the necessary credits to graduate with a DEC. It instead offers specialized courses where students graduate with Attestations of Collegial Studies (AEC), Diplomas of Professional Studies (DEP) or In-House Diplomas (AE).

Both schools are bilingual, offering programs in both English and French, and both are known for their prestige.

The following programs are available at Inter Dec College: Artistic Makeup-Fashion & Beauty, Massotherepy, Aesthetic Care, Hairdressing, Interior Design, Set and Prop Design, Video Games, Commercial Photography, Video Editing, Graphic Design and 2D/3D Animation.

Lasalle College offers a selection of pre-university and technical DEC programs, all of which lead either to accelerated university studies or integration straight into the job market. Many of the programs they offer are not available elsewhere or at least not in English. This includes: Fashion Design DEC, Fashion Marketing DEC, Tourism DEC, Hotel Management DEC, Professional Cooking DEP, Computer Science Technology DEC, Development for Web 2.0 AEC, Insurance and Financial Management Services DEC, SME Accounting AEC, Early Childhood Education DEC, and Special Care Counseling DEC. Lasalle also offers a number of online learning programs.

For more info: or

Trebas Institute

For Crees looking to get a fast track into the entertainment industry, look no further than Trebas Institute to study sound, spinning music, and audio and video production. A smaller school with only four specific focuses, Trebas is known for the prestige it offers in the following programs: Studio Recording and Live Sound, Sound Design, DJ Arts and Technology, Music Business Administration and Film and Television Production and Post Production.

For more info:

Montreal Universities

While the whole world might affectionately joke about Montreal’s McGill University as the “Harvard” of Canada, back in 1821 the school began a fine tradition of offering a top-notch education to its students.

McGill set the bar high and since then the other three universities in Montreal have kept up the same tradition: to offer a world-class education and top research facilities to academics.

Those looking to enroll at a university as their next academic step will probably already have a school in mind as they will have to prepare for it in one of our aforementioned colleges or programs. So for those looking to plot our their academic future ahead of time, have a look at the following websites to see just who has the program you are most interested in.

McGill University:

Concordia University:

Université du Québec à Montréal:

Université de Montréal:

Eastern Ontario Schools

While many Crees opt to stay within La Belle Province for their studies, some Crees are just as inclined to hit the books at institutions across the provincial border in Ontario.

With hundreds of colleges and institutions in Ontario, the Nation has opted to showcase a sampling of them, some with and some without specific programs adapted for Aboriginals.

Algonquin College

With campuses in Ottawa, Perth and Pembroke, Algonquin College’s popularity can certainly be measured in its growth over the years. Now offering over 140 different programs, this institution may have enough facilities to educate Ontario’s masses but at the same time boasts its ability to provide a small-college atmosphere.

Special for Aboriginals, Algonquin now offers a General Arts and Science Aboriginal Studies program in both one- and two-year programs. The one-year certificate program is aimed at delivering knowledge on and appreciation for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples through a study culture and heritage, contemporary issues, Aboriginal languages, community development strategies, and Aboriginal law and government.

After one year, students can choose to transfer to another program and have their credits accounted for in their new program or opt to do a second year, which leads to General Arts and Science Ontario College Diploma with a concentration in Aboriginal Studies.

For more info:

Lakehead University

For those looking to sink their teeth into Aboriginal content at a university, look no further than Lakehead as it offers a bounty of Aboriginal programming, particularly when it comes to learning and teaching Aboriginal languages.

Lakehead is also the only institution in Ontario to have its own department for Aboriginal Initiatives, which is dedicated to providing leadership in Aboriginal development and advancing an understanding of Aboriginal culture, heritage and language.

In terms of Aboriginal specific degree programs, Lakehead offers an Honours Bachelors of Aboriginal Education, programs in Indigenous Learning that focus on a fundamental understanding of Aboriginal history, philosophy, culture and values that are open to all students, a Native Teacher Education Program, and a Native Languages Instructor program.

Lakehead also offers two programs geared at integrating Native students into college life, the Native Access Program, a nine-month course to help students transition and a Native Nurses Entry Program which also runs nine months and is geared at getting Native students up to standard for the mainstream Nursing program.

But, for those whose dream is studying medicine in a program that is specifically geared towards graduating Aboriginal doctors, Lakehead offers the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. This unique medical program offers a specific Aboriginal focus that does not only incorporate meaningful collaborations with Aboriginal communities but is also respectful of Aboriginal culture and history.

For more info:

Laurentian University

Sudbury’s Laurentian University not only has a large Aboriginal student population but also offers one of the only two Bachelor of Native Social Work programs in Canada.

Its School of Native Human Services, Nishnaabe Kinoomaadwin Naadmaadwin (Native Teaching in Helping), also trains Aboriginals for careers in the following fields:

Child Welfare, Mental Health, Corrections Provincial/Federal, Community Development, Administration, Direct Service Delivery, Policy Development, Research & Development, Education Training and Management and Health Care.