Matawa First Nations have chance to cash in on Ring of Fire jobs – by Bryan Meadows (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – August 9, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

The federal government is providing almost $6 million for training Aboriginal people near the Ring of Fire mining camp.
The Skills and Partnership funding will help 260 residents from nine Matawa First Nations get the skills and experience they need to find good quality, high-paying jobs through a mining industry training project run by Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services (KKETS) in partnership with Noront Resources Ltd. and Confederation College.

Training will be provided for jobs such as heavy equipment operator, underground diamond driller helper, security guard, camp cook and environmental monitor.

The funding announcement was made Thursday at Confederation College by FedNor Minister Greg Rickford. “Our government’s top priorities are creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity, across the country and right here in Northern Ontario,” said Rickford (C-Kenora).

“By working with organizations such as Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services, we are ensuring that the members of local Aboriginal communities can take full advantage of the opportunities being generated by the rapidly growing mining industry, in particular in the Ring of Fire,” he said.

KKETS will be registering students for the training programs, some of which start as early as mid-October, and which will be delivered at various locations.

Confederation College will be organizing and delivering the programs, while Noront is committed to creating opportunities to enable Matawa First Nations members to participate in all aspects of its mining operation on the Eagle’s Nest nickel, copper, platinum and palladium deposit.

“It is important to Noront that we have access to a local workforce that is trained for the employment opportunities that we will require as we develop and operate our Eagle’s Nest Project in the Ring of Fire,” company spokesman Paul Parisotto said.

“This program is a step to achieve this very important goal.”

Nine specialized training and six pre-trade courses are being made available to Matawa First Nations members, with many delivered in First Nation communities and others in Thunder Bay.

“The training we will be delivering to Matawa First Nations’ people will support the development of specific skills to increase employment and entrepreneurism prospects on a sustainable, long-term basis throughout the communities,” Confederation College president Jim Madder said.

“We look forward to building on this partnership to support learning and employment and entrepreneurism across the Northwest associated with the Ring of Fire.”

Ginoogaming First Nation Chief Celia Echum said that “training in our own communities is something we have needed for many years.
“It is difficult for people to leave their homes and families to get training, especially when you come from a remote community. This community-based approach to preparing for the future will turn out to be one of the most successful training initiatives,” she said.

David Paul Achneepineskum, CEO of Matawa First Nations Management, added that “our peoples of the land will benefit from this approach to training and skills development and will be better prepared for the new economy coming to their communities and territories.

“The more we build these important partnerships, the more success we will have,” he said.

A memorandum of understanding was signed a couple of months ago between Matawa First Nations, KKETS, Noront and Confederation College, creating The Ring of Fire Aboriginal Training Alliance. The alliance’s key objective is to provide training-to-employment opportunities for Matawa First Nations people.

The Ring of Fire is a 5,000-square-kilometre, mineral-rich area in the James Bay Lowlands, within the traditional territory of two Matawa First Nations.

Launched in July 2010, the Skills and Partnership Fund encourages Aboriginal organizations to create partnerships with government, business and community organizations that drive change, improve skills training and create opportunities for Aboriginal people.

The program responds to the changing needs and priorities of the labour market while providing opportunities for Aboriginal people to participate in Canada’s economy. The government has pledged $210 million over five years for the partnership-based, opportunity-driven fund.