Algonquin College has received $2.5 million in federal funding for a new program that will offer hands-on job training to hundreds of Indigenous youths across the country who are struggling to find employment during the pandemic.
Funded by the federal government’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, the program will see Algonquin work with 13 Indigenous partner organizations in eight provinces and territories. It will run until the end of March 2021.
Known as the COVID-19 Rapid Response Initiative, the project will help about 260 Indigenous Canadians aged 15-30 land work placements and receive training and skills needed to find long-term employment.
“Algonquin College excels at delivering this kind of experiential learning and is excited to play an important role in the federal government’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy,” Algonquin president and CEO Claude Brulé said in a statement.
Many of the funds will be used to help First Nations communities meet particular needs related to the pandemic.
Wabano Centre partnership
For example, the program will train young Indigenous people in Winnipeg to screen patients at medical centres for COVID-19. Several other communities plan to set up food sustainability projects that would make them less reliant on outside sources.
Here at home, the college is partnering with Vanier’s Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health and Operation Come Home to teach resume-writing and job-interviewing skills. Participants will also serve as greeters and support workers at local warming centres.
Ron McLester, Algonquin’s vice-president of truth, reconciliation and Indigenization, said the project has the added bonus of putting the college on the radar of communities that otherwise might not know about the educational opportunities it offers.
“As an institution, we haven't done a great job of dedicated recruitment efforts for indigenous learners,” he told OBJ on Wednesday.
“You could buy a billboard and it wouldn’t have anywhere near the effect of true community development work such as this.”
Algonquin College is one of 13 institutions, organizations, and agencies across Canada that received federal funding to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on young people through the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy.