Education, training and employment for youth in the forestry industry will be some of the major issues discussed at the Aboriginal Forestry 2001 conference in Saskatoon from Jan. 21 to 24. The theme for the conference is Putting Today?s Experiences into Tomorrow?s Forestry.
?We want to get youth involved because the youth population is expanding and there are a number of employment opportunities in the forestry industry for them,? said Micheal Newman, Saskatchewan liaison officer. ?We are hoping to have about 300 to 400 people at the conference. That is what we are striving for. There will be employment counselors and youth employment counselors also attending the conference."
An overview, workshops and plenary sessions include the First Nation Forest Program, five years review, Canada?s Model Forest Program and the enhanced Aboriginal Involvement Initiative, are some of the programs that will be part of the conference. Workshops available include Enhancing Aboriginal Involvement in Sustainable Forest Management, Opportunities in Employment and Training; Technical Activities in Forestry; the Professional Forester; and Forestry Entrepreneurs.
?There are a lot of different types of jobs available in the forest industry. One of the concerns right now is that Aboriginal people, especially youth, are not capitalizing on the opportunities out there. What we are trying to do is make the youth aware,? said Newman. ?Right now we have registrations coming in from the NorthWest Territories, British Columbia and from the Eastern provinces. We have people coming from all over Canada.?
A plenary session hosted by Alexander First Nation?s Herb Arcand will be held on Wednesday. The First Nation community started a business for private contracts in fire fighting in 1994. By 1997 this move paved the way for similar businesses in a number of Aboriginal communities across the province.
?While we are at the conference we hope to pick up on new ideas in the field of forestry,? said Ken Porter, senior advisor for forestry operations for the chief and council of Alexander First Nations. ?Besides fire fighting, we hope to be able to make contacts with other band members while we are there, that we may be able to work with other Aboriginal bands in partnership arrangements in forestry.
?I guess the message we are trying to bring across to the youth is, if they want to get into the field of forestry they have to get an education beyond high school,? he said.
The conference is put on by the First Nations Forestry Program. The purpose for the First Nations program is to help people across Canada develop skills and expertise in the area of forest management.
?It is a program that has been going for five years. We are in the final year. It ends at the end of March,? said Steve Price with the Canadian Forest Service. ?In Saskatoon at the end of January during the conference we are having an annual meeting of the First Nations Forestry Program. We will be talking about the activities that we?ve been engaged in the last five years and highlighting some of the success stories. Specifically we will be focusing on opportunities for young people in the forest sector.
For Grizzly-Man Resource Management in British Columbia, attending the conference is an opportunity for the company to bring back ideas for employing youth. Lennard Joe and his sister Deborah are both a part of the company, Lennard, who is the owner, and Deborah, who is the administor, are from the Shacken First Nations outside of Merritt.
?We?ve hired students just out of high school who wanted to see if they wanted to have a career in forestry. It is better for them to get into a program like this because it gets their foot in the door. Usually students do not have enough experience to put down when applying for jobs. They often need someone to pick them up and hire them. For the youth it is getting their foot in the door,? said Deborah Joe. ?For exaple, we hired someone in the summer. This was a summer job for him. He was really interested in forestry. He worked with us and we got him into a program with the ministry of forests and he learned a lot. We trained him and taught him a lot of things he needed to know. Now there is a forestry office in the area that wants to hire him after the New Year, so that was good for him.?