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Okanagan College provides desirable technology training to BC First Nations

A high-tech certificate program designed particularly for First Nations students interested in the field of Geographic Information Systems has drawn interest from students across the province.

The 20-week (500 hour) GIS Certificate program was developed in conjunction with the First Nations Technology Council’s Project Raven, and is funded in part by Human Resources Skills Development Canada.

Fourteen students from across B.C. have come to the College’s Salmon Arm campus to take the program.

Okanagan College has been offering a GIS Certificate program since 2000, and in concert with the First Nations Technology Council modified it to address First Nations applications that will help students get employment in First Nations organizations as well as government and private industry.

“We’re pleased to be able to be part of a program that provides needed skills training to First Nations people and links them to employment prospects,” said Regional Dean Jim Barmby.

Instructor Mitch Krupp said with the use of GIS, information about traditional territories can be collected and stored in a database for later display on maps. These maps could then make up part of the bands’ knowledge for anything from treaty negotiations to habitat protection.

“Basically you’re analyzing different information for social or environmental purposes,” he explained. “It could be used to solve land management problems or to analyze health-related issues to determine what environmental factors may be coming into play.”

Krupp said two-thirds of the students have already secured jobs and it will be interesting to see how the course develops given the federal government’s recent budget announcement regarding job skills training.

“There is a real need out there both within the Aboriginal, and non-Aboriginal communities for trained GIS Technicians. We’re hoping to expand this program online, which can be very expensive to do, so any news of potential funding is important to us and the future of the program.”

Among the skills students learn are map creation, data entry and editing, GPS, data management, project management, and geoprocessing, along with cultural and employment readiness content to prepare the students for the workforce.

The Project Raven GIS program spans a three-year period through to 2015. For more information about the program, visit the First Nations Technology Council at www.fnbc.info/fntc.

Okanagan College also offers a regular GIS Certificate program, which over the years has trained students from across the country, the U.S. and as far away as India. For more information about that program, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/gis.