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June 22, 2017

Electrician training program fills 37-year gap

Sachigo Lake First Nation is an Oji-Cree First Nation located in the Kenora District of Northwestern Ontario. Electricians, particularly skilled First Nation ones, are a rare and precious commodity in the remote community. The last electrician training program was held in 1979.

Now a locally developed program is changing that. Sachigo Lake’s Pre-Apprentice Training Program gives youth a full overview of an electrician’s job. Youth selected for the program also get the opportunity to enroll in an apprenticeship program to become certified electricians.

Chief Titus Tait and the Band Council developed a proposal for a 12-week training program in early 2016. Their goal was to address the skills shortage by preparing local youth for construction work. Funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and a partnership with a trade school made the program a reality.

The community worked with Gravenhurst, Ontario’s First Peoples Trade School, which offers similar courses to First Nation communities. The school hired Master Electrician Harvey Sagle as an instructor, and Sachigo Lake paid his travel and accommodation expenses.

The project brought a wave of applications for the 6 positions and a long wish list of repairs from the community. In total, 6 men and women aged 20 to 30 were selected, plus 2 summer students. The program was extended to 16 weeks thanks to its popularity and potential, and the community provided trainee allowances.

Trainees spent the first 3 weeks learning basics in the classroom before heading out on service calls with Harvey. This hands-on learning was a great benefit to the students as well as the wider community. In all, the students inspected and repaired over 140 homes, upgraded 4 public buildings and helped wire 3 new homes.

The Pre-Apprentice Training Program is a first step towards full certification as an electrician. The students are already scheduled to work on 12 new housing units this summer as apprentices. With ongoing support from the community, they’ll be ready to take on future opportunities and fill the region’s skills gaps.

To learn more about funding for programs like this, contact a CMHC First Nation Housing Consultant.