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Training programs boost job prospects

Traditional practices around food harvesting and preparation included as part of culinary training

Vancouver Island University (VIU) is recruiting eligible students for tuition-free employment training programs which start in the new year.

The programs are designed to help unemployed people move back into the workforce, and employed individuals requiring skills-upgrading to improve their job prospects.

“VIU has received upwards of $700,000 this year under the provincial Employment Skills Access (ESA) program to deliver training in four areas including shellfish aquaculture, culinary arts, marine operator, and leadership and capacity building for first nations,” said Marion Knost, manager of contract training for VIU.

The free training sessions will be offered at VIU’s Nanaimo, Cowichan and Powell River campuses, and at the Parksville/Qualicum Centre. Knost is also working with North Island College to deliver programs on the west coast of Vancouver Island including Port Hardy, and with Camosun College in Victoria. Several intakes will be offered January to June.

All tuition and material costs for participants are funded through the ESA initiative. Transportation and living allowance are the participants’ responsibility.

“This is a great opportunity for individuals who face financial and training-related barriers,” added Knost. “The ESA program will help close the skills gap for many individuals who are struggling to enter (or re-enter) the job market.”

Knost said a six-week shellfish aquaculture technician training program will build awareness and teach participants basic skills needed in the shellfish industry.

A 12-week introduction to culinary arts program, including a two-week practicum placement, will provide students with the skills and knowledge required to fill entry-level culinary and food service positions. Traditional aboriginal teachings and practices around food harvesting and preparation will be integrated into the curriculum and learning experience.

A three-week marine operator training program includes foundation training and then focuses on building awareness and skill training to meet the standards for gaining employment in the marine industry.

The fourth program is an 18-day leadership and capacity building skills course for first nations students which teaches practical skills necessary for locating and maintaining meaningful employment.

In addition to these four programs, Knost said VIU is exploring program offerings in electrical, and residential building maintenance worker. “We hope to submit funding proposals to the BC government early in the new year,” she said.

VIU is one of 15 universities and colleges in BC receiving funding for skills training through the province’s ESA program. Funding comes from the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Agreement through the ministry of jobs, tourism and innovation.

Last year, VIU received in excess of $500,000 through the ESA program and served 123 clients. Knost said this year’s increased funding (more than $700,000) could allow VIU to assist upward of 170 clients.

The ESA program is open to people who are unemployed and not currently receiving Employment Insurance benefits (EI), and have not received EI in the past three years for a regular claim, or the past five years for a maternity or parental claim.

Eligible applicants also include people who are currently working but who have not completed high school, or have completed high school but have no post-secondary education toward a degree or recognized certification or credential.

Knost said funding for the ESA program is important because it recognizes the value of education in transforming people’s lives.

“Access to tuition or support gained in employment readiness programs can make a world of difference in moving toward fulfilling work,” she said.

VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson said everyone wins when community members are given a boost to seek training and employment. “The ESA funding allows us to help our community members gain the necessary skills and training to excel in the workplace,” he said.

VIU will offer the marine operator training course February 9 to 29, 2012 in Powell River. There are currently seats available.

Interested applicants may contact Sandy Elvy at the Powell River campus or call 604.485.8027, or Pam Botterill at or 250.618.7748. More information is available online.

VIU hopes to offer an intake of the leadership and capacity building skills for first nations program in Powell River next October.