$0 for Vocational Training
Awareness-building Campaign on First Nations Education
The first vocational training programs date back to the 1960s. It was not until 1995, however, following the conclusions of a group of experts mandated by the then Minister of Education, Mr. Jean Garon, that vocational training really came into its own. From the outset, the study on the re-launch of vocational and technical training, at the specific request of the Minister, was a chance for the experts to see vocational training as an important aspect of regional development and to take this into account in their proposals. When it submitted its report, the group declared itself: “satisfied that vocational training must contribute to raising academic levels among young people. We are also aware that Quebec society can no longer accept young people leaving school without any professional qualifications and so arriving in the world of work with no skills”.
The MELS invests a total of over $2 billion annually in the organization and promotion of services offered in vocational training.
Quebec’s unique model
The enthusiasm surrounding vocational training observed in the Quebec school system has not been reflected by First Nations. The organization of vocational training in the Quebec school system is a model that is unique in Canada. Elsewhere in the country, different trades are learned at the post-secondary level, in colleges, or directly in industry. As this system is specific to a particular region, the federal government’s funding programs, which are designed for First Nations throughout Canada, do not recognize services and student assistance in vocational training that are provided at the secondary level.
This in any case was the understanding that the FNEC had developed of matters over the years. This hypothesis was confirmed in June 2006, in a letter addressed to the FNEC by the Director General of the Education Branch of INAC, who confirmed: “We recognize that this document required efforts to collaborate with our Ministry (document analyzing the vocational training situation among Quebec First Nations) and after analysis it would appear that the federal government does not provide adequate funds for vocational training in schools administered by Quebec bands”.
Vocational training is not an option
On a daily basis for the bands in question, some 20% of their members do not have access to the necessary assistance allowances to be able to continue their studies in vocational training programs or receive training services in specialist or semi-specialist trades in their communities. For students on reserve, vocational training is not an option. Only members who are eligible for human resource development programs can have access to such training, and only under certain conditions.
It would be considered unfair were the awards system made inaccessible to vocational training students just because their training was being offered at the secondary level. It would be just as difficult to imagine how schools and school boards could be refused the necessary resources to offer diversified and comprehensive programming to meet the training needs of teenagers and adults.
Vocational training is a condition for development
A Treasury Board of Canada report (2004) established that a total of 58% of First Nations youth living on reserve in North America had not completed their secondary education. This figure is 41% for off-reserve youth. Bearing in mind the rising demographic curve in the communities, as well as the needs in manpower and economic development on reserves, the situation is clearly highly problematical. It can be humbly submitted that at least 20% of Quebec First Nations’ human potential has been inactive for 15 years because of the lack of cohesion between Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s (AADNC) programs and those of Quebec.
The general public will understand that if the federal government does not accept its responsibilities towards First Nations, it will thus deprive the regions of Quebec that share their territory with First Nations of a part of their dynamism, thus contributing to the deprivation index of these regions. Quebec needs workers; First Nations youth and adults deserve to be offered real opportunities to obtain the qualifications needed to contribute to the development of local and regional economies.