Fort William First Nation, Ontario – On November 19, 2021, All-Women Line Crew Ground Support (LCGS) trainees successfully graduated with 25 transferable certificates to advance in future apprenticeship opportunities and pursue careers on the Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Line. Congratulations to the graduates from North Caribou Lake, Pikangikum, and Bearskin Lake First Nations!
Opiikapawiin Services’ Training Program Manager, Laura Calmwind, organized the all-women program after seeing the large discrepancy between men and women applicants for the co-ed LCGS program: “I thought it may bring in more applicants, if we offered the training for women only. It may encourage more women to think about the trades. We also looked at what barriers stopped women from applying to our training programs.” Ms. Calmwind explains, “That led to us offering childcare services, along with other supportive services, as it is a long time for parents to be away from home.”
Jamie Keeash brought her son along with her to the course: “Having childcare included with this training program has made it possible for me to pursue my career. Having my young son Kingston with me has kept me going.”
This is the only course of its kind in Canada, specifically organized for First Nation women from Wataynikaneyap Power’s owner communities. Course structure from Canada’s Infrastructure Health and Safety Association provides graduates with 25 transferable certificates. Ms. Calmwind also incorporated Indigenous knowledge, land-based learning, and health and wellness workshops: “With most of our training programs, we include Traditional Knowledge and land-based skills, as well as invite speakers like local Elders to come share with the students. It is not just about certificates.”
The course started August 16 and ran for 14 weeks: seven weeks at the Quetico Conference Centre near Atikokan, Ontario followed by seven weeks at the Fort William First Nation training site near Thunder Bay, Ontario for hands on skills, pole climbing, and equipment training.
Graduates are now looking forward to their next steps. Shirley King explains, “I want to work towards an apprenticeship and keep going with my career in the powerline trades. It is encouraging to see more women being part of the construction.”
“I am very proud of the success of these graduates. It is not easy to be away from your family, friends, and community while undertaking a course of this length. They took on the challenge and now they are in positions to rise up and become leaders in their communities,” remarks Frank McKay, Chair of the Wataynikaneyap Power GP Inc. Board.
Eliezar Mckay, Chair of First Nation Limited Partnership, also comments: “Congratulations to the students on their hard work and perseverance! Training opportunities like this program build up our Peoples’ capacity for long term careers on the transmission system and are an important part of meaningful participation and involvement on the Project – one of the Guiding Principles that our leadership provided.”
“Education is an important part of this Project, from training programs to apprenticeships. We are proud to work with our First Nation partners in bringing both training opportunities and reliable electricity to communities,” said Scott Hawkes, President and CEO, FortisOntario Inc. “Congratulations to the graduates and best of luck as they continue to grow their careers!”