Programs that uplift: Indigenous student programs that give back

Photo provided by Athabasca Basin Development

Accessible programs for summer students are crucial for not only students to access valuable skills and networking opportunities but are useful for companies that wish to find fresh talent to bring new perspectives into the workplace. Athabasca Basin Development and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute for Technologies (SIIT) are two organizations that aim to bring these experiences and connections to Indigenous students, primarily within the northern regions of Saskatchewan.

Creating for the future

By building up future employees with summer student programs Athabasca Basin Development and SIIT give valuable learning opportunities for students who live in Northern Saskatchewan. Plus, they also create a support network for the participants within their programs that not only gives students summer job opportunities, but also allows for them to build connections with other students within the same summer programs. “We’ve been interacting with students for a long time, and we knew from events and getting to know them that students who have to travel from home to the south to learn have a lot of challenges there. It can be lonely,” says Kristy Jackson, director of marketing and communications for Athabasca Basin Development. This is Athabasca Basin Development, and their funding partner Prince Albert Grand Council Urban Services have the unique offerings of annual gatherings for their summer students.

On the job side, SIIT maintains consistent employer partnership for the benefit of their students. “Career Centres engage quarterly with employer partners to discuss their current labour marketing needs,” says Justin Albert, a manager for First Nation Labour Market Strategy (FNLMS) Operations. By doing this, the nine Career Centres SIIT has been able to connect about 1,000 clients per year with employers that are looking for certain job skills and training.

Creating something that works

SIIT and Athabasca Basin Development both make a point of creating a streamlined process for their students within their summer job programs. Students looking for opportunities make only a single profile meant to be shared amongst employer partners. This is so students can be matched with jobs that suit their work profile and so that employers within these programs can access potential summer students in one single place.

Athabasca Basin Development further builds onto this summer student and employer relationship by hosting annual events for students. This allows for networking and long-lasting connections to be built not only with summer students and their managers, but amongst summer students.

SIIT’s Career Centres also engage their students through making their resources accessible at any time. By allowing access to available job coaches and managers for any necessary assistance in achieving their students’ goals, SIIT re-evaluates and adjusts their programs regularly to ensure students can get the most out of the work that SIIT does for them. Employer partners with SIIT in turn get well-prepared students who have applicable job skills for their summer job programs.

Fruits of their labours

Through the programs created and maintained by both SIIT and Athabasca Basin Development Indigenous students can be set up for success within their future job fields. According to Dr. Vickie Drover, associate vice president of operations & advancement, SIIT’s nine Career Centres (Regina, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Meadow Lake, La Ronge, Creighton, North Battleford, Yorkton, Lloydminster) connect about 2,000 clients to employment every year.

Since inception of their summer program in 2021, Athabasca Basin Development has not only given students long-lasting friendships to support each other in their education journeys but have helped students in the Athabasca Basin regions (Fond du Lac, Stony Rapids, Black Lake, Hatchet Lake, Wollaston Lake, Camsell Portage and Uranium City) find employment in their job fields, such as Richie Robillard who went through their summer student program and found full-time work after as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Apprentice. Athabasca Basin Development has had 12 students in 2021, 18 in 2022, and 12 in 2023 being supported through their work and the work of their participating companies. There is also a scholarship program for Athabasca students offered by Athabasca Basin Development, Cameco, Orano, Flyer Electric and Ya’ thi Néné.