OC supports Gitxaala Nation with vital trades training for economic and cultural growth

By College Relations | January 24, 2022

Gixtaala Nation carpentry grad
Gitxaala carpentry apprentices share a moment together after completing Level 1 training

In one northern village, Indigenous cultural needs and massive construction projects combined to create demand for specialized Okanagan College Trades training to support community members.

Located on the north coast of British Columbia, the Gitxaala Nation’s main community is in Kitkatla. It identified the need for skilled trades people several years ago, as projects such as the LNG Canada in Kitimat and port expansion in Prince Rupert were announced.

But it was a smaller project closer to home that inspired Gitxaala Nation to empower its members with carpentry training.

“In the village, Lach Klan, the plan is to build a traditional longhouse as a cultural project. We're wanting to provide carpenters the opportunity to build a Kitkatla project that is going to be there as an important part of their community for years and years to come,” said Evie Nance, Gitxaala CCDP Employment and Training Manager.

The BC Regional Council of Carpenters, together with Bird Construction, the Gitxaala Nation, JGC Fluor (the prime contractor for LNG Canada) and the Industry Training Authority, collaborated last fall to develop an eight-week Introduction to Carpentry and Formwork Program. The program was designed to equip Gitxaala Nation members with skills to become carpenter apprentices. Ten individuals, four of whom are women, successfully completed the program and are now employed with Bird on the LNG Canada (LNGC) project in Kitimat.

Progression to the next level of carpentry training was essential, though, and Nance began hunting for an organization that could bring the education to the community.

“I did my research on who had the best track record working with Indigenous communities and Okanagan College was one of the institutions mentioned,” Nance explained.

OC Carpentry Instructor Kelly Brochu travelled to the northern community to lead Level 1 apprenticeship training to the 10 students, who ranged in age from 18 to 44 – including people with grandchildren. It was a smaller class due to pandemic classroom size restrictions, and the group quickly bonded over carpentry lessons and challenging life lessons as well.

“The students were getting hit with disasters like family emergencies, apprenticeship EI funding didn’t come through, a death in the family,” Nance explained. “Despite it all, the students still showed up. They still had smiles on their faces, laughing and teasing each other. They said it was really hard, but they pulled through.”

At the graduation ceremony, key stakeholders such as representatives from the BC Regional Council of Carpenters who initially visited with the class during their intro program, returned to find an entirely different group of individuals.

“The comments they were telling me were so heartening. They couldn’t believe how mature the students were; not only did they become tradespeople, but they had developed incredible emotional maturity,” Nance said.

“Apprenticeship training is always multi-faceted, as it teaches apprentices skills but also about the importance of resiliency,” said Teresa Kisilevich, Associate Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship at Okanagan College. “It was an honour to deliver training for Gitxaala Nation in their territory and be part of the students’ transformation.”

The next step for Gitxaala will be to offer Level 2 Carpenter Apprentice training, which will be held in August. For Nance, choosing a training provider is an easy decision.

“It's going to be Okanagan College, because I want it done right,” she says.

Tags: Trades, Partnership, Inside OC



Sign up for weekly stories


Cam Egan hiking Mount Kaala with two friends
Meet Cam Egan, Biology Professor

March 8, 2022

Q: What is your name and role at Okanagan College?  A: Cameron Egan, College Professor in the Department of Biology  Q: What did you take at OC/OUC? When did you graduate? What campus did you attend?  A: I was enrolled in the Associate of Science program at the Vernon campus 2003-2005. This was during the transition years between OUC and OC.  Q: Why did you choose your program at OC?    A: Biology always fascinated me as a high school student. When starting my post-secondary educat...

Haley Chapman and Bailey
Meet Haley Chapman, Pharmacy Technician Student

February 28, 2022

Q: What is your name? A: Haley Chapman. Q: What program and year of study are you in at Okanagan College? A: I am in enrolled in the Pharmacy Technician Certificate Program and am about to enter my third month of classes. Q: Which campus do you primarily study at? A: The Kelowna Campus. Q: What drew you to that program?  A: I have been working as a Pharmacy Assistant for five years now and I wanted to further my knowledge and capabilities within the Pharmacy. I’ve fallen in lov...

Tara Laveay with her dog
Meet Tara Laveay, Therapist Assistant student

February 20, 2022

Q: What is your name/preferred name?   A: Tara Laveay   Q: What are your pronouns?    A: She/Her  Q: What program and year of study are you in at Okanagan College?    A: First year, Therapist Assistant Diploma   Q: Which campus do you primarily study at?    A: Kelowna   Q: What drew you to that program?     A:  Everything! This is a program that is built for me. The fact that I get to participate in helping a person to make their daily living better through things such as movement ...

Student Mikala Vujcich with her dogs
Meet Mikala Vujcich, Therapist Assistant student

February 16, 2022

Q: What is your name/preferred name?   A: Mikala   Q: What are your pronouns?   A: she/her   Q: What program and year of study are you in at Okanagan College?  A: I am in my last semester of the Therapist Assistant Diploma  Q: Which campus do you primarily study at?   A: Kelowna   Q: What drew you to that program?   A: The TAD program is a defined diploma program, meaning it is designed and built to direct successful graduates right into the industry. That and the fact that it is a...