Cree Human Resources Development (CHRD) will soon hit the road to promote programs they offer to improve our lives.

While this Cree entity has been around for some time to assist Crees with issues like financial aid for their studies, employment initiatives, and to provide skills and development training, it has been a while since they went on a road trip.

“We have done these kinds of tours previously, but it hasn’t happened since the late 1990s or early 2000s,” said Denise Brown, the CHRD Coordinator of Programs and Services.

Starting in September, the tour will visit all the communities to showcase the entity and highlight recent changes.

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“The purpose of the tour is to highlight our new initiatives that were started in the territorial programs, like mining and ECN (Eeyou Communications Network). We also have more enhanced initiatives for persons with disabilities and more community-based programming,” said Brown.

The goal is to bring these programs to life for Crees. They will hear presentations from people who know them best and can answer questions about the programs, employment fields, and what support participants can access. It’s not just about perusing the goods and picking up pamphlets, this event will help many Crees find new career paths.

The CHRD has evolved in recent years to adapt to the needs of a changing employment market and education needs.

“Besides basic changes like the overturn of personnel, we have streamlined our programs. Previously we had 13 and we still have those in general, but we have now changed them to field-development programs, student programs, market development programs and employment programs,” said Brown.

Showcasing the changes to the persons with disabilities file will be a special feature of the tour. Brown said that while CHRD has had a special initiative for those with disabilities for some time, they improved it this year after receiving increased funding. This has allowed the CHRD to hire a new coordinator, Wendell Nicholas, who will be on the tour to promote the file.

“Wendell Nicholas is legally blind and is very knowledgeable when it comes to persons with disabilities. We want to show people with disabilities that this fund is here help them and we want to help those with disabilities who want to work into the workplace,” said Brown.

Part of this too will be to show the disabled just how an employer can adapt a work situation to the needs of someone who is disabled so that they can integrate into the workplace.

Darlene Wapachee will be on the tour as the new liaison officer for Emploi-Québec to answer questions related to provincial programs.

Likewise, the CHRD’s Youth Development Officer, Catherine Quinn, will showcase youth initiative programs.

As for the two other CHRD initiatives, Blazo Voyager will answer questions about ECN and Stephen Forward will present Strategic Partnership Programs for foundational skills (SPF) with the mining industry programs.

Since the new fibre-optic network went up, ECN has contracted out a portion of the work to Texas-based Alcatel-Lucent until Cree technicians are able to manage the system.

As ECN will be carrying out the same general functions as any other fibre-optics and telecom company, such as providing service to residential, council and commercial customers, they will be offering training in three specific fields to meet the employment needs of the region.

“These three job profiles will be for outside plant technicians, and training for the network operating centre. (There will be network-operating centres in Mistissini and in Wemindji.) There’s also going to be another course for telecom technicians and they will have the same role as the computer technician within the building,” said Voyager.

While some courses have already started in Mistissini and Chisasibi, Voyager said that one reason he’s on this tour is encourage Crees to go into the field, as there aren’t enough people currently studying in these programs to meet the employment boom. As there will be multiple training cohorts, Crees can enter this field of training as soon as they feel ready.

“We start out by asking people if they have Sec 5 or a passion for communication technology. There is no entry level program required, we basically test individuals to determine if they have any skills gaps and then build them into being qualified technicians,” said Voyager.

According to Forward, the same approach applies to the many well-paying jobs that will be available in the mining industry. This skills training will take place both in the classroom and on the job.

This program is being offered as a special collaboration between CHRD, Sabtuan Education, Eeyou Mining Skills and the SPF partnership program, Goldcorp, Tawich-Redpath Norescon Mining and Stornaway.

“The program is a partnership that is tied to the industry and so this particular program that I work on is an essential skills program, essential skills being foundational skills or workplace-related skills.

“This program specifically works on literacy, which is reading comprehension, mathematics for the workplace, document use and communication. This is what we zero in on,” said Forward.

The concept is to offer a continuum of support for people learning this kind of technical work to help them excel.

“It’s about refreshing their skills and then offering ongoing support. When they exit the Cree School Board program and go to the mine site, there are essential skills training available there. They are paid leave time to work on the skill gaps that they might have in the workplace. The technical training and the workplace don’t always mirror each other,” said Forward.

As this kind of work can be highly technical, with its own vernacular of terminology, the point is to go the extra mile to ensure the safety of those working on the job site and to offer the best workplace experience possible. Mine safety is essential and so the SPF program takes learning beyond the bare minimum required to obtain a card.

For more info on the upcoming community tours: