Twelve Tłı̨chǫ students will learn skills to help them get jobs by working on a 10-kilometre stretch of the new all-season road, from Whatì to the La Martre River.
The program is set to start on Monday and will run for five weeks. Students complete two weeks of classroom safety and maintenance training before three weeks of “in-seat equipment training,” levelling the road.
Ron Pankratz, the Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation’s director of environmental, engineering, and equipment, said the “concept is to improve people’s employability through training.”
Students will learn how to operate machinery like rock trucks, excavators, and dozers, and will complete the course with a certificate in heavy equipment operation.
Pankratz said some students are coming from more remote regions, where access to similar training opportunities is a challenge.
“The whole program is meant to use real-world experience to make sure that we overcome the barriers that exist for training in the remote regions of the North,” he said.
The program has “seen its hurdles,” he added. The Covid-19 pandemic, for example, pushed back the start date. Pankratz said all pandemic safety measures were in place and students would have accommodation that allowed social distancing.
Construction on the all-season road began August 2019. The finished highway will span 93 kilometres between Highway 3 and Whatì.
The project is set to be completed by fall 2021.
More: All-season road to Whatì given approval despite concerns
The training program involves the federal, NWT, and Tłı̨chǫ governments as well as contractors the Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation and Kiewit. Pankratz said bringing so many levels of government and industry together was a rarity.
“This is more or less a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” he said. “There aren’t too many projects of this magnitude where all of the partners are willing to come together to facilitate education and still provide economic benefit to the region.”
Pankratz hopes the 12 students will be able to apply for future infrastructure jobs in the region.
“The folks that benefit from this will have lifelong skills that they’ll be able to use to support their families and communities,” he said.