Partnership opens doors in science and technology for Indigenous students in Cape Breton
The beginning of what should be a fruitful relationship started in Cape Breton on Tuesday.
It's between Indigenous students who need employment opportunities and the science and tech sector which needs a qualified workforce.
With a few signatures on the dotted line, a partnership was formed -- one that's expected to open windows of opportunity for First Nations students in science, technology, engineering and math.
"It's kinda nice to see, because not a lot of people here in this community succeed," said student Kaisa'n Stevens.
The program was launched at Allison Bernard Memorial High School in Eskasoni and it's called "U'namaki P-Tech," or – "Pathways to Technology."
Stevens is a Grade 11 student who has been taking some tech courses already. Now he's considering a career in the sector.
"I didn't think too much about this P-Tech program," Stevens said. "I just heard about it, and I was like 'Whatever, I'll sign up for it.' I didn't know it came with (so many) benefits."
One of those benefits students enjoyed on Tuesday was a visit from the president of IBM Canada, Claude Guay.
Guay said the program is designed "to address some challenges that we have in this country."
Guay says the challenges companies like his are facing is two-fold: A skills shortage in the industry, in general and an under-representation of the country's Indigenous population.
Guay told the students gathered in the gym that he'd like to one day hire some of them.
"When they graduate, they will be first in line for an interview with IBM," Guay said. "But actually, before they even graduate, they will have paid internship for IBM."
Newell Johnson has been the school's principal for 23 years.
"I was proud," Johnson said. "I was so proud of the students."
She says plain and simply, chances like this didn't happen in the past.
"To have these kinds of opportunities, I think we're doing something wonderful, something amazing, for our future students and for our future kids and generations," Johnson said.
While the program was launched today here in Eskasoni, it's being made available to students in Indigenous communities all over Cape Breton Island.
Stevens thinks there's some untapped talent in his community for this line of work and, as for his own future, the possibilities are wide open.
"I'm really interested in engineering and anything to do with physics," Stevens said. "So maybe something in nuclear engineering or biomedical would be a really cool career path, maybe, to choose."
A win-win amid hopes some of these youth might be making plenty of money one day in a fast-growing industry.
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