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  • Further Education Society of Alberta

Pathways to Meaningful Employment for Indigenous Youth

We’re excited to announce the official launch of our ‘Pathways’ project! It brings together Indigenous youth and their communities, Elders, mentors, bridging organizations (those that provide job resource and skills training support) and employers to create new pathways to meaningful work and employment in the Tourism and Government sectors.

What do new pathways look like? They’re holistic, collaborative, innovative and unique.

They build confidence, literacy and essential skills and technical skills. They provide opportunities for mentorship and experience in inclusive workplaces. They’re supported by many partnerships. Most of all, they’re guided and created by who they’re for, Indigenous youth and their communities.

Here’s a quick look at some of the journeys we’re already on.

Indigenous Workplace Learning Circles at Eden Valley Resource Center

Indigenous Workplace Learning Circles (IWLC) is a program developed by FESA that helps foundational learners, youth, or anyone new to the workplace build literacy and essential skills. The program builds

on youth’s strengths and incorporates traditional culture and language to build confidence and skills for work. The program often runs in partnership with other employment programs, in this case to support youth to complete work safety certificates, job interviews and job placements. It’s been evolving with the guidance of youth to meet their needs and members of Stoney Nakoda Youth Council have been training to become IWLC facilitators and deliver the IWLC programming in the future.

Cooks with Stones

Cooks with Stones is a program driven by the Stoney Nakoda community. It started as part of our Going the Distance project, and continues in Pathways, as an opportunity for Stoney youth to enter the tourism and hospitality industry.

The holistic program runs for 9 weeks and includes a traditional knowledge camp, workplace essential skills training, food safety tickets culinary training, mentorship, internships, accommodation, and transport for participants. Participants not only improve their literacy and essential skills and work skills, but they also start with a foundation of Stoney culture, traditions, history, and learning from the land, and then are shown how their skills are transferrable to a non-Indigenous workplace.

Many partners came together to make this program happen, Stoney Nation Consultation, Further Education Society of Alberta, Stoney Nakoda Job Resource Center, Stoney Nakoda Resort, Chef Rich Rancis and Chef Scott Iserhoff to name just a few.

And we also won an award! Cooks with Stones recently won ABC Life Literacy Canada’s ‘Canada Life Literacy Innovation Award’ celebrating collaborative effort of the community and partners to remove barriers to employment for Stoney youth:

“The supports that I received were mentorship and peer support from FESA staff and Pursuit staff and my Eyithkabi weya mentor Wyanne Smallboy-Wesley all helping me to achieve my goals in gaining employment and realizing that I have a special gift of sharing my skills that I learned from my Nation. Skills I can take with me to teach others about my Nation the Stoney Nakoda. What I really enjoyed making was the salads and seafood boil outside and also going inside the kitchen and learning the cooking prep in both settings. Learning ice breaker activities such as the sandwich artist challenge and the other team building games. I enjoyed taking home a plate for my father and seeing his face with a big smile that told me I did a good job and making him proud.”

Chanel, is a proud daughter, granddaughter and sister of her Eyithka family in Mni Thni, Alberta. She was a participant in Cooks with Stones 2021 and returned back this year as a mentor. She currently works as a line cook with Pursuit Banff/Jasper.

We’ll keep you updated here on all the journeys that Pathways takes us on, including more on Cooks with Stones 2022 after the closing ceremony this month.

For now, we’ll finish with a few words from two Elders who we’re lucky to have advising and guiding the project.

"Representation matters. The more that Indigenous people see themselves represented in all aspects of the Tourism and Government sectors, the easier it will be to attract other Indigenous workers to those sectors. Pathways will be a journey of discovery, skill development, and

building self-confidence in their chosen field. Indigenous youth will have opportunities to flourish in supportive work environments, including showcasing their talents and unique cultural perspectives to the benefit of that workplace."

— Ted Norris, National Advisory Circle Chair for Pathways

“We start learning from our first breath until we take our last breath. Therefore, we can learn new things everyday. Helping our people find their strengths and weaknesses helps me find ways to improve and personalize teaching methods through cultural knowledge and life practices. The Further Education Society have had success over the years with their programs and they have embarked on more programs to help individuals succeed in their endeavours.”

Vinnia Van Overdyk, Elder on the National Advisory Circle for Pathways

If you’re interested in this project or have further questions please contact Aimee Lo, Executive Assistant at FESA,

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.


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