Flush with $18.3 million in provincial funding, the Cree School Board (CSB) is preparing to open a regional Vocational Training Centre.

The 4,000-square-metre centre will be located in Waswanipi, with the construction slated to begin this spring. There is a target date for full operation set for September of 2004.

There will be a capacity for 120 full-time students. As many students will be coming from the other Cree communities, they will need to be lodged in Waswanipi, as will the centre’s teachers.

Proposed study programs include cooking, carpentry, cabinet making, worksite equipment mechanics, landscaping work, fitting and welding, northern building maintenance, secretarial studies, accounting and starting a business.

Part time courses will also be available for people who will need to upgrade their skills for job or promotion.

The programs will be offered according to the needs and demands of the students, as well as the priorities of the Cree Human Resources Development (CHRD).

“We have to match people with the needs of employers,” says Mable Herodier of the CSB.

“The need is so great, I don’t think we’ll be recruiting students from outside the territories. There was a huge demand for training from our adults who have already taken certain vocational training. They need more, such as apprenticeships, to be fully recognized like every other person in the province. The people need full accredited recognition by an accredited institution to have the right qualifications for the jobs.”

The project has been in the works for over four years.

“When we concluded the round of negotiations with the Minister of Education in 1999,” says Herodier, “we agreed that the first three years following the agreement we would work to discuss the construction of facilities, even a regional centre for education. It would be for continuing education that would deliver vocational, as well as general and other programs, like literacy programs, for the adult population.”

In 2002, the Education Ministry agreed to meet with the CSB to discuss the project further, and a commitment was made that they would fully support the project.

“They made a special recommendation to approve this project,” Herodier explains. “Since October of last year we have had to wait for the announcements made by the Treasury Board. It is something the CSB has worked on in collaboration with representatives of the Ministry of Native Affairs and Northern Development, other ministers and the MEQ.”

Herodier says there are bigger things to come in the Cree educational system.

“We need to focus on continuing education right now because we are not meeting the needs of our clientele. We still need to focus on making Vocational Education accessible for the youth,” she emphasizes.

“We also still need more facilities and educators for Special Needs. Our schools are not equipped to meet the needs of that population. So it’s a part of the whole still yet to come. I look at the centre as a building, like capital requirements t for what is yet to come.”