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Team Work Makes the Dream Work

The Future of Industry in the Mackenzie Region

By Dani Wearden | Photography submitted

Sustaining growth for industry in the Mackenzie Region has, and always will be, a priority for the area’s many stakeholders. To this end, there is a concerted effort on behalf of local government, education providers and members from industry. Together, they lead the way to a better tomorrow.

FVSD students learning with forestry equipment simulators

Youth are our future. We’re advocating and networking to create opportunities for students, so they can confidently begin their careers locally,” said Mackenzie County Councillor Lisa Wardley. “This plays a vital role in building a larger, more sustainable workforce long-term. It’s all about investing in our future.”

In direct support of this initiative, the Fort Vermilion School Division (FVSD) partners with several companies from different sectors to provide training and dual credit opportunities for students.

Some partners include True North Powersports, Alberta Health Services and Tolko Industries.

True North Powersports

Specializing in the sales and services of outdoor power equipment, True North Powersports (TNP) is always looking for great new employees with previous experience. Partnering with FVSD and joining the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) is helping them fulfill this need.

“Partnering with FVSD in the RAP program is exciting,” said TNP General Manager Davy Peters. “With the current labour shortage in Alberta, it’s been a blessing to have this avenue available to us. We look forward to using this opportunity to springboard more growth for our industry, particularly for our stores, in the coming years.”

FVSD provides training and programming for students in the RAP program, which gives students workplace experience and helps them prepare for life outside school.

For those who want to continue their schooling and work toward earning trade certification, True North Powersports is committed to paying for their education. For them, it’s an investment in both their company’s future and the future of the region.

Alberta Health Services

For Alberta Health Services (AHS), Zone 1 encompasses High Level, Fort Vermilion, La Crête, Rainbow Lake, Paddle Prairie and Zama City.

AHS has had a tri-partnership with FVSD and Northern Lakes College for the past six years. Working together, they have built capacity and engaged local students to take part in the Health Care Aide program, and many have gone on to start their careers in healthcare and work in the local communities.

“This is an amazing partnership. It’s an opportunity to create a sustainable solution to our national healthcare worker staffing shortages,” said Angie Mann, AHS Area 1 Director. “Our students are familiar with the remote location, culture and language here. Not only does this assist with recruitment and retention across the Mackenzie Region, but it also supports and strengthens our patients’ overall experience and connection.”

Once certified, students are supported by AHS. Often, an AHS rep will help them find a position at one of the sites in Area 1, or at their partner site, Heimstaed Lodge in La Crête, which is the area’s supportive living facility.

Developing local capacity supports AHS’s “Grow Your Own” initiative, which aims to engage and encourage youth to enter a health discipline that supports the delivery of healthcare services on the local level.

The Health Care Aide program provides a foundation for students interested in becoming healthcare professionals. Many who utilize the program go on to complete their Licensed Practical Nurse and Registered Nurse education.

Tolko Industries

Tolko Industries is a family-owned forest products company with operations in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Following the purchase of High Level’s sawmill in 1999, Tolko has become one of the most modern and productive dimension lumber mills in the province.

Tolko has supported FVSD in multiple ways, which include service work, lumber donations for career and technology studies (CTS) classes and projects, donations for breakfast programs, participation in the RAP program, and by joining the Forestry Expo for students in grades 9-12.

“At Tolko, we grow our own by providing local community members with the opportunity to enter the forestry industry. We know retention is higher when we grow local talent, and we know we can provide meaningful opportunities for students, so they can stay in the communities where they grew up,” said Kara Stoyanowski, Tolko HR Business Partner.

Many students interested in the forestry industry have entered the RAP program or gained skills in high school CTS courses that transfer directly over to Tolko’s workplace. It’s allowed many students to become successful tradespeople after graduation.

“There are many opportunities with Tolko. Students can start in Woodlands if they like to be outdoors, or on the operation side, there are many positions that could lead into a trade, leadership or multiple career paths,” said Stoyanowski. “We are proud to operate in the North and support communities by investing and providing careers for families.”

Overall, FVSD’s mutually beneficial partnerships offer numerous examples of how “teamwork makes the dream work.” With room for growth, FVSD plans to continue building on these partnerships.

“FVSD is currently working toward a collegiate model in partnerships with industry and post-secondary institutes to impact the future of students in the North. This model will build capacity and provide opportunities for entrepreneurship and growth in the region,” said Mike McMann, FVSD Superintendent of Schools. “We are excited for the North. This could be a future scalable model for the province.”

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