Northern College and Keepers of the Circle partnership brings trades learning to remote communities


If you live in a remote community, accessing education and training is not always easy.

But a partnership between Northern College and Keepers of the Circle provides trades training directly to First Nations in northern Ontario.

The college and the Indigenous Hub first partnered in 2020 and have since worked together on projects in multiple communities.

Today they have converted four trailers that will help bring training – including carpentry, plumbing and electrical skills – to northern communities.

Kathy Lajeunesse, Liaison Officer with Keepers of the Circle, said there are still many barriers to program delivery in Northern Ontario and especially in remote communities.

“Not all members can afford to get out of their community to go to college,” Lajeunesse said. “Some programs aren’t available at their location, and whether it’s college or university, we wanted to bridge that gap and provide that opportunity for the community to help build their infrastructure.”

One of the projects, for example, was called the Land Based Healing Camp Building and took place 100 kilometers outside of Cochrane on traditional hunting grounds.

“The members spent about six weeks there with all the construction tools and ended up building three campys,” Lajeunesse said. “Whether there are bunk beds or whether there is a queen size bed or single beds, local people now have the opportunity to get out into the field and experience earth-based healing, which is very different from traditional trauma healing.”

Trailers like the ones pictured above have been modified and outfitted to bring educational resources to remote communities. (Submitted by Kathy Lajeunesse)

Lajeunesse said those who participated came away proud of their accomplishments.

“Some people were interested in the construction and wanted to help out,” she said. “Maybe they were drawn in because of the cultural aspect or maybe they were drawn in because they want to know more about the construction, but everyone, whether it’s men or women, everyone was so proud of their accomplishments and showing off what they had built with their bare hands.”

“They had no idea they could do this,” she said. “So it definitely instilled confidence and gave them skills that were equivalent to a level one building requirement.”

Christine Heavens, executive director of community, business development and employment services at Northern College, said programs typically last 15 to 16 weeks, focusing on integrating culture and traditional knowledge throughout. of their performance.

Mobile trailers, so far, can handle welding, carpentry and construction, and they’re hoping to outfit a trailer to handle the basics of plumbing and electrical, Heavens said.

“We’re hoping to design our fourth trailer for a small engine, but at this point it’s equipped to help us bring materials and supplies to site.”

Not only does the program connect community members with traditional teaching and provide a cultural touchstone through education, but it can also help address the nation’s skilled trades shortage.

“Unless there are skilled trades people who can help develop apprentices, communities have a harder time getting those skilled trades,” Heavens said. “And often they have to secure expertise remotely and bring in a contractor.”

“Being able to develop these skills locally allows funds that would be used for construction or development or whatever work to also stay within the community,” she said.

“It’s really a significant benefit to the economic success of the community.”

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