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Sabtuan introduces new adult education options

BY Patrick Quinn Aug 30, 2019

When children return to school this September, more of their parents may be joining them. There are more adult education options than ever in Eeyou Istchee, enabling people of any age to achieve their dreams and contribute to the Cree Nation’s future.

Sabtuan Adult Education Services (SAES) is again expanding the range of high-quality, community-based education and vocational training it has offered for nearly 40 years. Students may complete secondary school courses and other general education options or pursue one of many vocational programs.

“To be prepared for these increasing opportunities, it’s a good idea to look into going back to school to get those credits,” said a spokesperson for the Cree School Board. “Adult education is a very flexible way to do that. It is self-guided. You can get things done fairly quickly.”

Missing prerequisites for your chosen vocational program? The spokesperson explained that SAES offers “Preparation to Vocational Education”, which includes general education courses specific to your career path- way. Certain vocational programs can be taken without a diploma by passing the General Development Test (GDT), an equivalency test evaluating training and language skills, science, problem solving, and writing comprehension.

A SAES guidance counsellor can help determine which credits or tests are needed to progress toward specific career goals. Anyone 16 or over can schedule a free and confidential meeting with their experienced counsellor, Luc Bertrand.

“We do it all very customized,” the spokesperson told the Nation. “We ask you what you need. What are your career goals? Where did you withdraw from secondary school, if you did? We can say these are the courses, walk you through a plan that makes sense for you, see what funding options exist. All of those services are there.”

A wide range of in-demand trades training is available to help people earn certifications without leaving their communities. Whether you want to launch a new career, apply for higher level positions or even start your own company, SAES offers well-equipped, sophisticated facilities that rival the quality of colleges down south, noted the spokesperson.

The modern Sabtuan Regional Vocational Training Centre (SRVTC) facility in Waswanipi is a bright, spacious building, with several large workshops, classrooms and lab areas. There are about 50 rooms available for families and individuals arriving from other communities, as well as a cafeteria, gym and other facilities. While registrations have steadily increased since the SRVTC opened in 2005, relocating for work or education is not something everyone can do.

Hopes are high that the new adult education facility in Mistissini next year will better meet demand in the region. This welcome addition in learning facilities is expected to primarily offer training programs in administration, technology, mining, construction and health fields.

Programs are generally aligned with employment needs in the region, ranging from perennially popular options like Northern Heavy Equipment Operations to the brand-new Welding and Fitting course. The latter program combines previous welding courses into one master certification, which includes high-pressure welding and other skills that are valuable in the job market.

“Another pathway to a really good career is Surveying and Topography,” said the spokesperson. “Our last graduating class has certifications that are extremely competitive in using drone technology so they can really work any- where. It’s probably one of the more exciting courses that people don’t know a lot about.”

With an ever-growing demand for Cree-owned businesses across Eeyou Istchee, SAES announced new “Starting a Business” and “Construction Business Management” programs this spring. These are indicative of a growing focus on empowering students to create their own careers, including tourism, mechanical contracting and sports-related businesses.

“We want to understand how we can move people forward,” explained Nian Matoush, Director of SAES. “Not just jobs but careers, and that can include building businesses, becoming contractors, building whatever career they really want. One of the keys to that is collaboration with other entities and communities, and the other key is having the data.”

To obtain this data, SAES launched an ambitious Adult Learning Needs Assessment earlier this year in collaboration with the recently rebranded Apatisiiwin Skill Development (ASD), formerly known as Cree Human Resource Development (CHRD). The vast consultation process will provide valuable information about both com- munity and employer needs in each community while providing a better measure of success factors.

The questionnaire phase of the assessment finishes this summer in Eastmain, then a comprehensive anal- ysis will help design interviews for a

qualitative assessment to follow early next year. The accumulated data will be analyzed to improve accuracy and responsiveness in developing future strategies.

“We need to do it in a way that ensures we have integrity so we can base plans from it,” Matoush asserted. “Then we’ll see how can we work with the communities to build a strategy based on this data. It’s a service we want to provide to each community individually, responding to their needs.”

The assessment will enable SAES to better allocate resources to various communities based on defined interests and economic needs. Vocational programs have historically been offered in each community according to perceived demand, with a greater selection available at the SRVTC in Waswanipi.

In the meantime, the Cree School Board website’s adult section provides a full list of programs offered in each community, with various offerings posted on their Facebook page. The Cree School Board recommends contacting their guidance counsellor and applying as soon as possible to ensure you have all the necessary prerequisites and can get into your desired program.

“There are a lot of ways you can introduce yourself to us and we can start to talk about what makes sense for you,” the spokesperson explained. “You don’t have to necessarily wait for a program that interests you to pop up on Facebook to come see us. You can come in any time and let us know your educational background and goals and that will help us direct you in the right place.”

For more info: www.cscree.qc.ca/ en/saes

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Patrick Quinn lives in Montreal with his wife and two small children. With a passion for words and social justice, he enjoys sharing Eeyou Istchee's stories and playing music.