Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Back (L to R) student Jules Bear, Phil Polsom of CLAC, student Nicholas Stonestand, student Justice Bear, Leonard Manitoken Industry Liaison for STC and Samantha Gerard; front Zach Somer General Manager of PCL Builders Inc. stand in front of the recently completed project by the Training to Employment program at Muskoday.

A unique project at Muskoday First Nation will see local students get a chance to work on the Victoria Hospital project in Prince Albert.

The CLAC (Christian Labour Association of Canada), Saskatoon Tribal Council, Muskoday and PCL Builders all worked together to bring a new Training Employment project to Muskoday that gives students an introduction to carpentry and concrete forming.

Phil Polsom Director of Training for the CLAC said they want to help students jump right into the workplace.

“Our programs are designed to give students the skills that they will need so that when they get on to a construction site, they’re able to participate and be ready to go,” Polsom said.

“The students will get to experience … all the different things that they need to do in order to complete this project, and then there’s a job waiting for them when they’re done.”

As part of the project, students constructed a concession stand and bathroom facility for a new spraypark and playground on Muskoday. The program was funded through the parent company of the Saskatoon Tribal Council. PCL Builders will have jobs waiting for students when the program ends.

The two groups decided on a project after talks with Muskoday leaders.

Polsom said the spraypark and playground were built a couple years ago, but leaders really wanted some additional facilities to go with it.

“The goal is to provide real training and real jobs because we just feel if there’s not a job at the end of the end of the training, it kind of defeats the purpose of the program,” he said. “Students will tend to lose interest if they don’t go to work right away.”

The CLAC partners with various First Nations groups, including Touchwood Tribal Council and the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, using different groups of students around the province.

The program at Muskoday was eight weeks and students usually start work right after. The Muskoday version has one major difference: students will work in the community on a few programs before joining PCL Builders.

“The students have all been working right here in the community, helping to renovate a bunch of houses and get them ready for repairs and stuff. It’s pretty exciting for them to be able to work,” Polsom said.

The students will eventually move on to the new Victoria Hospital project in Prince Albert, which will allow the students to add more credentials to their resume.

“They’ll go there and once they get on to that project, they’ll actually be able to complete their journeyman ticket right there on that one project,” Polsom said.

Nicholas Stonestand was one of five students who completed the program. He studied craft labour and concrete construction, and found the experience beneficial.

“It was awesome,” Stonestand said. “I learned how to do a bunch of different stuff that you wouldn’t normally do, like the angles on the roof and everything. I learned a lot actually about concrete and forming, (and) drywall. We did everything. We even did electrical.”

Stonestand said he learned a lot and would recommend the program to anyone who could use it. He also appreciated the camaraderie that came with it.

“It’s a great program, I got to meet up with my old buddies I never hung out with in years,” he said.

With the program finished, Stonestand is looking forward to moving on to the Hospital project.

“You get a career out of it,” he said. “That’s what I wanted. I want to get a career out of it and do carpentry. I really enjoyed it.”

Polsom was happy to have so many people involved in the project.

“We’re grateful that Saskatoon Tribal Council, Muskoday have entrusted us to this program and given us the opportunity and we’re thankful to PCL for coming on board and making sure that there’s employment for the students when it’s done,” he said.

Polsom added that they are looking at running more of the programs with communities around the province.

“The goal is to create as many opportunities for our Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan as we can,” he said.

By: Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald