Between “think tanks” and economic conferences, the buzz in the communities these days is about getting more community members into the workplace to address the community’s employment needs. There is a tremendous amount of work available for skilled workers that will frequently be contracted out to those from outside the community.

On the other hand, there are many individuals who are either contemplating their first careers or where to retrain for a new one but who don’t know which employment fields will guarantee them a lifetime of work.

Then there are a series of Cree entities and agencies who want to assess the community’s employment needs in order to avoid a glut of unnecessary workers trained in a particular skill, or, conversely, face employee shortages. Talks have already begun to see who can provide what.

In early December, The Nation spoke with Rodney Hester, the business development coordinator of the Cree Regional Economic Enterprises Council.

“We do want to participate at the career fairs in Mistissini, they are going to be holding the second annual job fair or career fair and that is going to be here, in Mistissini in July,” said Hester. “Now, hopefully we can use that kind of setting to interview the young people, the students and maybe have a draw or whatever to get so many questionnaires completed and then use that information to be able to see where the interests are.”

After a three-day brainstorming session between Cree government, economic entities and other interested parties January 16-18, Hester is feeling positive but he acknowledges there is still a great deal of work to be done. Participants focused on the local economy during a day-long session January 17 and Hester said the consensus was to build up the private sector within the communities.

“We support the private sector entrepreneurs in terms of developing their businesses, creating employment and helping them through the initial stages so that they become stabilized,” said Hester.

Where to train for a rewarding career

Those shopping around for a new career can check out the trades training at the Sabtuan Regional Vocational Training Centre in Waswanipi. At the moment Sabtuan is offering courses in Carpentry, Professional Cooking, Secretarial Studies, Hairdressing, Assistance to Patients, Heavy Equipment, Mechanics, Computer Support, Plumbing and Heating and Northern Building Maintenance.

Some of the programs are already in session and new courses won’t be opening up over the next six months. But Sabtuan Director Willie Ottereyes says there are still spots available in some programs.

“There will be a carpentry course that will be starting up for the second week of February and if people are interested they can still apply,” said Ottereyes. The Assistance to Patients course will also be starting up soon and so will the Hairdressing course.
“What a lot of people don’t consider is how going to the regional vocation school can be a springboard to get into other programs. Because many of the students who arrive at the school do so without the kinds of credits required to go on to a collegial program such as nursing, starting out at the vocational centre might just be the ticket to be accepted elsewhere.

“People frequently ask about nursing programs but we tell them that we are not allowed to teach any college level programs, only vocational. So these programs that we offer, the assisting to nurses and nurse’s aide and home-care assistants will benefit them if they decide to go out to college and take a nursing program or something like that. It is a good idea if they decide to go to Waswanipi first and find out how the program is. If they decide to go on later, it will give them more knowledge when they go into college to upgrade more of their skills to become a registered nurse,” said Ottereyes.

In 2008 the school will also be offering three new programs. To address worker shortages in the Northern Quebec’s booming mining industry, Sabtuan will be offering an Ore Extraction Program.

There are definite advantages to studying at Sabtuan, says Ottereyes, particularly because the school takes great care of their students. “We do have a residence for them and provide meals three times a day so they don’t have to spend any money on that,” says Ottereyes.

For those who would rather go to or stay in Mistissini while training for a new career, Sabtuan Continuing Education will also be launching a new Protection and Development of Wildlife Habitats program at Mistissini. Though there is not yet an official start time for the new program, it will last 1,320 hours and is geared toward those who like the great outdoors.

For people looking to upgrade their skills in order to go on to a post secondary program, but can’t seem to find the time to get themselves into a classroom, there is good news. A new online course entitled Preparatory to Post-Secondary Education or Vocational Programs will be available this year.

For more information on the new programs call Charles Matoush, Director of Continuing Education, at (418) 923-2764, ext 327.

To find out more or to apply to the Sabtuan Regional Vocational Training Center in Waswanipi, call 1-866-921 -4040 toll free or visit

If, on the other hand you were considering doing courses at a university level, the Université du Québec à Abitibi-Témiscamingue will also be offering three new English programs geared towards First Nations individuals. Starting in September, UQAT will offer a Certificate in Administration, a Multidisciplinary Business Certificate and a Bachelors of Social Work. These programs are in addition to the Certificate in Human Resources Management, Certificate in Accounting, Certificate in Human Resources Management and Bachelor Degree in Preschool Education and Primary Teaching that the university already offers.