Forty-six Aboriginal people are preparing for employment in the mining industry thanks to a training program through the cooperative efforts of the federal and provincial governments, Northgate Minerals Corp. and Wabun First Nations. The trainees who participated in the Matachewan Aboriginal Access to mining jobs Training Strategy (MAATS) were honoured in a graduation ceremony March 31 in Matachewan First Nation.

Chief Richard Wincikaby, Matachewan First Nation, expressed gratitude at the participation of so many individuals in the pre-employment training program.

“This is a very significant event for our community as it is promoting and helping our First Nation people find the training they need that can lead to employment in the mining sector,” said Chief Wincikaby.

Two of the graduates, Linda Batisse and Ronald Bluebird, spoke to the gathering in their honour.

“We would like to thank everyone involved with MAATS. We all have dreams of great deeds and higher positions and this pre-employment training program has given us the will and inspiration to achieve whatever we want,” said Linda Batisse.

Jason Batise, MAATS Board Chair and Wabun Tribal Council representative, pointed out that this training project was a huge undertaking for the First Nations involved and the partners that contributed.

“On behalf of the board of directors we want to congratulate the graduating class. This initiative is a huge investment, not only by the community but by industry and the province and we thank everyone involved,” said Jason Batise.

The MAATS pre-employment training program provided an introduction to the mining industry and training in first aid and WHMIS. Participants also received career testing to develop a personalized employment or training plan. The graduates are now taking upgrading and academic programs with Northern College to help them follow their chosen career path in mining. Bob Mack was on hand to represent Northern College.

MAATS is a $4-million initiative that was announced on February 13, 2009 by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) as a three-year partnership strategy. The strategy is supported primarily by HRSDC under the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP) program. MAATS is also supported in a partnership with Northgate Minerals, Matachewan First Nation, Mattagami First Nation, Wahgoshig First Nation, Wabun Tribal Council and the Ontario government.

In a communiqué to the MAATS organization, Deborah Hyde, Acting Director, Partnerships, Aboriginal Affairs Directorate, HRSDC extended her congratulations to the students.

“These graduates represent individual potential and highlight the gains made by the many partners involved in this program,” said Hyde.

Northgate Minerals is actively involved with Matachewan First Nation in the development of the Young Davidson Mine near the town of Matachewan.

“I am a firm believer in continuing education. Training and education is always valuable as it can lead to meaningful employment in any field,” said Chris Rockingham, Vice President, Business Development And Exploration, Northgate Minerals.

The Wabun Chiefs of Mattagami First Nation and Wahgoshig First Nation provided their support for the graduates.

“There are all kinds of resource-development opportunities happening on or near our First Nation lands and we are preparing our people for employment with training programs such as this,” said Chief Walter Naveau, Mattagami First Nation.

The three Wabun communities are working together in multiple agreements with the mining industry concerning resource-development projects currently taking place on their traditional territories.

“This is another good day for our Wabun First Nation people. I want to thank everyone for working together and making this training program available for our community members,” said Chief Dave Babin, Wahgoshig First Nation.

Wabun Tribal Council has provided its support to partnership agreements to create training opportunities for its member First Nations.

“I want to congratulate all of the graduates of the MAATS program. Wabun Tribal Council commends the efforts and participation of HRSDC, Northgate Minerals and Matachewan First Nation in this important training initiative,” said Shawn Batise, Executive Director, Wabun Tribal Council.

MAATS is directed by a board of directors representing the partnering organizations. The board members are Jason Batise, Board Chair and Economic Development / Technical Services Advisor for Wabun Tribal Council; Chris Rockingham, Northgate Minerals; Denise Nadon-Holder, Wahgoshig First Nation; Pam Cormier, Matachewan First Nation, and Gary Naveau, Mattagami First Nation. The strategy is managed by Ann Batisse, Executive Director; Laura Jean Flood, Community Liaison Officer and Gisele Batisse, Administrative Assistant. Gail Brubacher, Partnership Coordinator for Northgate Minerals also works closely with MAATS staff in coordinating and organizing training and employment strategies.

“Our goal is to help Aboriginal participants find employment in the mining industry. We help them start from an entry level position but we also assist them in training and upgrading to find the right employment in higher level postings,” said Ann Batisse.