If you have resolved that 2007 is your year for action on retraining and changing your field of employment, you are not alone. As the demands of the labour market evolves, we the workforce must evolve to accommodate its needs.

When we think of schooling however, our minds will often naturally gravitate to images of rosy-cheeked children handing apples to their beloved teacher before taking their seat in the classroom.

The reality is that the classroom isn’t just for the kiddies anymore. Adults are lining up in single file to retrain themselves for new careers, filling classrooms to brush up and get a promotion in their present job, or to simply finish what they once started and get that high school leaving certificate.

If this sounds at all familiar to you or if you have been thinking that you’re up for something new, the first step down this road should lead you directly to your local continuing education office. There are a whole bevy of courses being offered up within the nine communities, from work as a truck driver or a nursing assistant to secretarial studies, or drilling and blasting. What’s certain is that there is something new and wonderful to be discovered for just about everyone.

What’s coming up?
According to Steven Wanamaker from continuing education, two exciting new trade programs are presently recruiting: Drilling and Blasting and Ore Extraction. Both courses will run approximately 900 hours and happen simultaneously in Chibougamau.

“It’s for all of the communities and these communities send participants from everywhere,” said Wanamaker.

The Ministry of Education and CHRD are funding this program through the Cree School Board, says Wanamaker, so it’s virtually free for Cree residents of the nine communities, even accommodations are provided. Recruitment is now taking place and the courses will commence once each of the 12 spots in the programs are filled, though Wanamaker is shooting for sometime in March as a start date.

To take part in either of these two programs, says Wanamaker, “You need to have a secondary 3 or equivalent and you must not have any kind of criminal record because you need to obtain a permit for handling explosives. That is very particular for these two programs.”

Graduates from either program will be able to anticipate wonderful employment opportunities in the future, according to Wanamaker. “Those who graduate from the Drilling and Blasting program will be hired by contractors in construction, the ones that put in the infrastructure, mostly the roads,” he said. “They also prepare the open pits and the underground mining. The ones who get a diploma in ore extraction will work directly for a mining company.”

If the idea of working in such hands-on fields is not your style but the idea of travel and an independent lifestyle is more appealing to you, how about a new career in truck driving?
“There is another course coming up in Truck Driving class 3,” noted Wanamaker. “This one is going to be in Waswanipi at our training centre and that is going to start in February.”

Though this course is filling up quickly, it is still taking applicants. For those interested in applying, make sure that you are both in good physical health and that you have been well behaved on Quebec roads. “If their medical is not good or if they have too many demerit points on their license they are eliminated [from the program].”

If these three trades do not appeal to you and running your own business is what you have in mind, the ever-resourceful Mr. Wanamaker also has something in store for you!“There is a program in the works right now for starting a business and we are going to do it online so anyone who has a computer at home connected to the Internet can follow.”

Though there is no official launch date at present, the program will be available sometime in 2007. “Some can take it in our classrooms with computers and at some point some will be able to take it in their homes,” said Wanamaker. This comprehensive entrepreneurial course will run 330 hours online and the participants will be able to take the course at their own pace.

“We are very excited about this,” Wanamaker enthused. “We have been talking about it for three years and this year it should start. There will be no limit to the number of students who can take this course. We are limited only by the number of computers; even then people can exchange, one can come in the morning and the other in the afternoon and the other one in the evening.”

This online course will also hopefully be the first of many. Once the entrepreneurial program’s wheels are in motion, the next program Wanamaker is looking to put online for the Cree communities is a college preparation course.

“It’s for those who don’t have all of their high school leaving,” he explained. “Let’s say they need just math or even if they do have their high school leaving and they want to brush up on certain subjects like academic subjects. So all those academic subjects should also be available on line but we don’t know if we are going to be able to get those up and running this year.”

For those interested in taking up something at the Vocational Centre in Waswanipi, the truck-driving course is far from the only course starting soon.

The Heavy Equipment Mechanic course begins in February for those who would like a career in motorized equipment maintenance. This 1800-hour course is perfect for the aspiring grease monkey.

If wrenches are not your pleasure the Assistance to Patients or Residents in Health Care Establishments also begins in February. With Canada’s aging population, there is no doubt to going to be a great demand for people to care for the country’s elders. If good bedside manners come easily to you, this 630-hour program could be the beginning of a rewarding career. Once more, as these courses are offered at the Vocational Centre in Waswanipi, says director Willie Ottereyes, “We provide allof the travel, the meals, the lodging; those are all paid for by the school board.”

Students can get funding by various different means, according to Ottereyes. “CHRD is responsible for funding all students individually to go to the vocational centre,” he observed. “If they have no other means of income while they are at the training centre, they should go to the CHRD. Students can still have social assistance from their community, but they should bring the papers to Waswanipi to transfer their social assistance to Waswanipi. Or they could be on El and there is the CHRD. So there are three different sources for funding.”

Depending on your community, taking up a new trade does not necessarily mean traveling elsewhere to study.

Though each community runs on a different calendar, offering different vocational programs at the continuing education centres throughout the year, if you are interested in taking up a new trade locally, it may be worthwhile to see what is going on in your community.

“We are supposed to start the secretarial studies course in February,” offered Annie Iserhoff from Continuing Education in Mistissini Though this program may be full for Mistissini, Iserhoff said that, along with the secretarial course, continuing education would also be starting up a cabinet-making course this April. Even if a course has already begun, late applicants are sometimes accepted. “I usually give them until about two weeks into the course to register after the course has commenced,” said Iserhoff. “After that I don’t accept anymore because they would miss a lot of modules.”

So, if you or someone you know has been talking about sharpening up their skills, starting a new trade, opening up a business or simply just changing their lives for the better, there is no time like the present to get informed. Continuing Education in your community has all of the information you need on where to go and how to get there, all you need to do is ask.