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Education Challenge gets top grades

February 24, 2015
Jason Ash presents to students at the First Nations University of Canada. Vale Archive.

Jason Ash presents to students at the First Nations University of Canada. Vale Archive.

A $50,000 community investment to prepare young people in First Nations communities for careers in mining is getting top grades in the classroom.

The $50,000 Education Challenge, launched in 2013 by our Kronau Project team in Saskatchewan, awarded prizes to start two educational programs that were chosen by aboriginal community leaders.

“The success for us at Vale was that we engaged with many of our aboriginal stakeholders in the community. We didn’t pick the winners: we allowed aboriginal leadership to decide,” said Jason Ash, environmental and aboriginal affairs lead at Vale Potash Canada Limited, who managed the initiative along with our community consultation specialist Lara Ludwig.

Vale received over 10 proposals for the challenge and put the decision-making in the hands of aboriginal communities to choose how the money would be best spent.

The two winning programs are a Workplace Skills Program, now offered by Gabriel Dumont Institute in Regina, and an academic program to expand the Indigenous Access and Transition Education Certificate (IATEC) at the First Nations University of Canada – which we got to see in action in the classroom.

“At the First Nations University of Canada, the money was put towards developing a brand new course and they invited me to come out and present to the class,” said Ash.

“It was refreshing to see the next generation of future aboriginal leaders and their perspectives; the level of engagement was very high. Students asked how do we benefit as individuals and also what questions should we be asking our leadership about these decisions,” said Ash.

The other winning program is a four-week course offered by the Gabriel Dumont Institute in Regina. It provides nine technical certifications in areas such as First Aid/CPR, Confined Space and Construction Safety that helps make students more employable.

“This is a unique, targeted training initiative for rural First Nations and Métis students in Southern Saskatchewan. The training allows participants to access multi-sectoral employment opportunities, as well as providing the foundation for many to return to further studies,” said Daniel Downs, Program Coordinator at the Institute.

Our proposed new potash mine is still in the feasibility stage, however, if approved the Kronau Project will employ about 2,000 people during construction and 350 permanent positions during operations. The $50,000 Education Challenge is a way to give back to support education and training in communities that can benefit the most.

“We created something that will benefit the community in an ongoing way. We helped to develop a brand new university course that can be delivered for years on end, and technical training that will help individuals in their careers for years to come,” said Ash.

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