Pilot program trains Aboriginal students from oil sands area

As the Environmental Monitoring and Science division (formerly AEMERA) continues to move forward and establish itself as the provincial monitoring agency responsible for measuring, assessing and informing the public on the condition of Alberta’s environment, engaging with Aboriginal stakeholders to find meaningful ways to braid Traditional Ecological Knowledge into regional monitoring, has become a clear priority.

After listening and spending time with First Nation and Métis groups over the past several months, EMSD has identified lack of training as a key barrier preventing Aboriginal communities in the oil sands region from participating in environmental monitoring, and finding employment in the environmental services sector. In an effort to address this gap, EMSD is supporting the design and development of an Aboriginal environmental training pilot, led by Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (AITF).

Fifteen students from eight First Nation and Métis communities from across the oil sands area have been selected through a recruitment process – which included over twenty nine applicants. The students will complete five full weeks of course time from August to December, 2015.

The training pilot is focused primarily on the topics of safety, wildlife, and surface water quality monitoring. The program structure is based on the previous experience of many training providers including AITF, and Eco Canada’s BEAHR Program. The safety courses being taught as part of this training pilot (defensive driving, swift water rescue, bear & wildlife awareness, among others) will result in the awarding of individual certificates, which will provide students with some of the credentials needed to proceed to higher education or, possibly, an environmental technical position. The ten safety courses being offered were selected based on EMSD’s standards for its own monitoring staff. The wildlife and surface water quality monitoring components of the training pilot are also being taught using provincial standards and protocols.

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It is our hope that this training will be the next step in building up a reliable source of local, community capacity to help deliver regional monitoring activities. Bill Donahue explains, “As we engage with Aboriginal groups and communities, and endeavour to braid TEK into regional environmental monitoring, we have heard from several groups and communities that increased access to training is critical to local participation in environmental monitoring. The Aboriginal training pilot will provide Aboriginal community members with enhanced technical skills that will allow them to actively participate in local monitoring. We are very excited to work with our first cohort of trainees from the Lower Athabasca region.”

Instructors from the division, the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI), AITF, and other certified training providers are providing training to the students.

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