STELLARTON – Shaun McCabe can’t help but smile as students come forward to receive their graduation certificates.
Aaron Prosper holds his son as he accepts his Aboriginal Ironworker Pre-Apprenticeship course certificate Friday at NSCC Pictou Campus in Stellarton. Presenting the certificate are Trish Glode-Chisholm, left, Shaun McCabe and Richard Sharpe. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS
“This has been a nice bunch and they’ve really applied themselves.”
He’s worked with them as their teacher and instructor for the last seven weeks. The 14 grads, from all across Nova Scotia, completed the Aboriginal Ironworker Pre-Apprenticeship course at NSCC Pictou Campus Friday.
“Some who came into the class have some training hours under their belt but others are right off the street,” said McCabe, trades and technology academic chair at the campus.
This is the second program, which aims to work with and train aboriginal students interested in becoming ironworkers, to take place at the campus. The program is made possible through a partnership of many individuals and organizations, such as Ironworkers Local 752, Labour Advanced Education, NS Aboriginal Employment Partnership and First Nation Bands.
David Morris, 23, of Paqtnkek First Nations in Antigonish County, accepted his diploma yesterday.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “It was challenging at times but we had a great instructor.”
He, like many of the other students left their homes and came to Stellarton to live as they completed their course.
“Now that I’m done, I’m hoping to get a job through the union in Halifax.”
Members of numerous First Nations communities were represented, including Pictou Landing, Paqtnkek, Shubenacadie, Mill Brook First Nation and others in the province.
Melanie Sacks, program manager of Action Partnership said retention was great.
“It’s not often you start with 14 and seven weeks later still have all 14. We’re thrilled,” she said.
Trish Glode-Chisholm, program manager at Connections Career Centre/Micmac Native Friendship Centre, said the program started when, in speaking with the ironworkers union, there was a need for ironworkers throughout Nova Scotia and Canada.
“We had a program like this in our heads for a while,” she said. “It took about eight months to lineup the partnerships.”
Rose Julian, economic development officer at Paqtnkek First Nation (Afton) said the opportunity to participate was posted in the communities but a skills assessment was performed for those interested.
“It’s a seven-week course so many that participated relocated and left their families for the duration,” she said.
During the ceremony, some of the graduates’ families were present to be a part of the occasion. Some grads accepted their certificates with one hand while holding their child in the other.
Frederic Bernard of Indian Brook First Nation had the distinction of obtaining the highest mark in the class.
“It feels awesome,” he said. “It’s like a new start for me.”
After travelling back and forth from Indian Brook to NSCC for class, he’s ready to settle down and start working.
“I’m hoping I can get a job in Halifax. It’s really exciting and I can’t wait.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn