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Feds invest $500K in Agoke project to boost Indigenous forestry workforce


March 4, 2020
By Maria Church
Maria Church
The Agoke Development Corporation launched a Forestry 101 Orientation program that is building up the future workforce. Photo source: YouTube/Agoke Development Corporation.

The federal government is providing a $500,000 boost to the Agoke Development Corporation’s recruitment and training project to increase the number of First Nations employed in the forest sector.

Agoke, a forestry company owned by the First Nations of Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls in northwestern Ontario, launched a two-week Forestry 101 Orientation program last year. The first-of-its-kind, land-based program gives a a condensed overview of the entire forest sector and career opportunities in forest management, silviculture, harvesting, road construction, and sawmilling.

“For the Agoke Development Corporation the training programs are key to improving the social and economic conditions in our First Nations and advancing our regional economy,” said Mark Bell, Aroland Nation board director for the Agoke Development Corporation.

“As older workers are planning to retire, we are readying our communities to be positioned to play our part in filling the skilled trades gap. We are taking a lead role to unlock the immense potential of our youth and integrate millennials into the workforce by providing them with the tools, inspiration, experiences and personal support they need to succeed,” Bell said.

Natural Resources Canada’s Indigenous Forestry Initiative is doling out the $500,000 to the Anishnawbe Workforce Development Maintenance Program. The program’s goal is to recruit up to 40 First Nations people and provide them with the training and technical skills required to join the forest sector labour force. So far 26 people have been trained.

Bill Spade, Eabametoong First Nation board director for the Agoke Development Corporation, said they are already seeing positive outcomes from the pre-employment training.

“There is a lot of work to do to help our youth realize their true potential and make a career in forestry. This will require expansion and on the job training in other areas like road construction, harvesting, hauling and the skilled trades apprenticeships opportunities for First Nations. Through our strategic alliances and key partnerships with companies like the Nakina Sawmill, we are making sure that there is a guaranteed job and a light at the end of the tunnel,” Spade said.

Watch a video about the Forestry 101 Orientation program:

RELATED: Agoke wins OFIA Forest Sector Champion Award for next-gen training