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Aboriginal employment program working, says Chilliwack MP

A First Nation's employment program rolled out earlier this year is showing worth by the dividends, says Chilliwack MP Mark Strahl.

In a series of roundtable discussions with youth and facilitators for the Enhanced Service Delivery program, Strahl has seen the positives of the program.

He's heard from youth who after years of struggle are now excited about employment, who willingly get up in the mornings for work, and are now working toward career goals.

Tuesday morning he spoke with approximately 20 youth at Seabird Island – the largest provider of the program in B.C. with 95 participants.

"It's inspiring to hear the young people from Seabird talk about how they want to increase their educational opportunities, and how they're preparing for a job market," said Strahl. "That they came here to tell me their story on a sunny, summer day, I think that speaks volumes to the importance they put on the program."

Enhanced Service Delivery, which was designed in part by Seabird Island Centre of Excellence, is two-fold in that it works first to to eliminate the various barriers standing in the way of aboriginal youth in obtaining employment, and then works on training the youth and transitioning them into employment.

The program is funded in partnership by Aboriginal Affairs, and Northern Development Canada and Service Canada.

The goal is to reduce reliance on income assistance by providing youth with access to a more personalized range of training, education and career counseling programs.

Each participant is funded individually to suit their needs. If they require driving lessons, or childcare services, or tools such as a laptop to succeed in training, they'll be provided those necessary supports, as well as encouragement and advocacy on their behalf.

"It's about having the advocacy behind them, reducing barriers, and increasing the supports to help them succeed," said Alexis Grace, employment and social development programs manager at Seabird Island, in an interview with The Progress when the program was first announced.

"The common misconception is that most First Nations don't want to work, but they do."

Something Strahl saw first hand at the roundtable.

"It's inspiring to see what is possible when First Nations work together, not only with the government of Canada, but also with industry and other partners," Strahl said. "To provide training and skills development that is actually going to make a real difference in these communities, in these kids' lives – that's going to have a ripple effect.

"The benefits go out to the entire country, not just the individuals, not just the local communities, but the entire Canadian economy."

Approximately 4,000 youth between the ages of 18-24 are participating in the program across the country.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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