Aboriginal students graduating from post-secondary schools in record numbers – by Michael V’Inkin Lee and Christopher Reynolds (Vancouver Sun – July 15, 2012)

The Vancouver Sun, a broadsheet daily paper first published in 1912, has the largest circulation in the province of British Columbia.

First nations students are attending — and graduating from — post-secondary schools and professional programs like law and medicine in record numbers

Mary Brearly had no idea as a little girl that she would grow up to be an underground miner. “I didn’t know that I could do that, I guess. Nobody had told me,” said the first nations Thompson Rivers University graduate, who earned her processing operations qualifications through the B.C. Aboriginal Mine Training Association in Kamloops last year.
Brearly, 27, is part of what the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education says has been a 25-per-cent surge in post-secondary enrolment among aboriginal youth over the last four years. Statistics from some colleges and universities in B.C. also show that more aboriginal students are completing certificate and degree programs in a broader range of fields.
“Ensuring that aboriginal learners have access to post-secondary education and training is essential to fulfilling our labour needs,” said Naomi Yamamoto, the minister of advanced education.
Completion rates for aboriginal students also rose, she said, with around 2,500 certificates, degrees, and diplomas awarded in 2010 compared to 2,100 in 2007.
Brearly, who left her job as a painter to complete a series of courses including heavy equipment operation, air braking, math upgrades and first aid, said she wants to be a role model for youths in her community.
“I’ve been talking with my younger cousin and telling him, ‘You don’t have to settle for that job at McDonald’s or Tim Hortons. There’s so much more out there. … You can do just about anything you want to.’”
Paul Michel, director of the First Nations Centre at the University of Northern B.C., noted that a growing number of aboriginal graduates, including more master’s students, are choosing to return home to apply their new-found skills.
“Half of our students seem to be getting attracted back to their home communities, which is very good,” he said. “But still half are attracted to the urban centres because there are excellent opportunities there also.”
He also warned about the conflicts of interest that can arise in the liaison positions increasingly taken up by first nations graduates at mining or oil and gas companies.
“They’re in a dilemma, our graduate students … because their home communities may or may not be in support of [resources extraction]. I always advise them to speak not only to your political leaders but your traditional leaders, too, before you accept any type of liaison position.”
The Ministry of Advanced Education unveiled a new educational framework on National Aboriginal Day in June, pledging more than $16 million in programs and financial assistance to help Metis, Inuit, and first nations students meet their higher education goals.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Vancouver Sun website: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Aboriginal+students+graduating+from+post+secondary+schools+record+numbers/6938222/story.html

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