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Aboriginal program encourages education in the trades

By Ashley Clark [1]

BELLEVILLE – The Aboriginal Construction Renovation program [2] at Loyalist College will be continuing for another two years thanks to the provincial government agreeing to fund it once again.

Loyalist announced on Monday that the program will be given $112,665 as a part of Ontario’s Targeted Initiatives Fund [3], which aims to help aboriginal students pursue education in skilled trades and practices.

The program began in 2014, but this year it has come back with a twist. It now has a connection with the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board [4], which means high-school students can use the program as a four-credit co-op placement, said Paul Latchford, the co-ordinator of the college’s Aboriginal Centre and the founder of the program.

“For me, it’s not a program, it’s an opportunity,” Latchford said.

Aboriginal Construction Renovation is a hands-on 16-week program that runs from February to June without any tuition fees.

Only 15 students are admitted, to ensure one-on-one time with the faculty, said Latchford.

The idea for the program came to him after the opening of a new water-treatment plant [5] in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territor [6]y resulted in more people wanting to build homes and live there, he said.

“We didn’t have qualified people to build our own houses.”

After graduating from the program, students are offered direct entry into the two-year Construction Renovation Technician program [7] at Loyalist.

Adam Chase, 39, is an aboriginal student who is doing just that.

Before coming to Loyalist, Chase said, his highest level of education was Grade 11. He decided to return to school so that he could get the credentials he needed to earn a higher wage in the workplace.

“I’m leaving the $13 per hour behind me,” he said.

He found he was more interested in education than he thought he would be, Chase said.

“I can completely understand that staying within the educational institute is only going to better myself. And I see it as an investment of my time.”

Since the funding for the program in 2016 was confirmed on Monday, Latchford said, it is already almost filled.