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Get your motor running: small engines repair class being offered in Nelson House

It’s months away but youth and educators of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in Nelson House are already getting revved up for the September start of the school year.

It’s months away but youth and educators of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in Nelson House are already getting revved up for the September start of the school year. What’s got people stoked is a new course offered at Nisichawayasihk Neyo Ohtinwak Collegiate in Nelson House that’s more tech than text – and which will appeal to youth who have an interest in motor boats, lawnmowers, snowmobiles and motorcycles.

The course, which recently received support from Vale, is called Small Engines and Power Technology, and is designed to teach youth about two- and four-stroke engine cycles, basic electricity, ignition and fuel systems, lubrication and cooling, and basic engine repairs on motor boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles and the like.

But it’s about more than fixing small engines. For vice-principal David Macdonald, training courses like this one encourage youth to come to school and attend on a regular basis. The focus on youth is significant – more than 60 per cent of the 4,600-strong Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, based in Nelson House, 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg, are between 13 and 30 years of age.

“This small engine training is the very first of its kind in Nelson House,” says Macdonald, who along with principal Natalie Tays have been tireless champions of youth education in the region. “Over the last three years we have been focusing on more trade-based programming for the Nisichawayasihk community and it has begun to pay dividends. This kind of training is of critical importance to Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation youth. It is a much-needed addition to our current complement of vocational courses. We truly believe it assists with attendance and retention.”

Mark Scott, head of Manitoba Operations for Vale, is pleased by the potential to hire more employees locally. “This program will support our overall Northern Employment Strategy by introducing Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation youth to skilled trades. While we have continued to hire 100 per cent of our process operators from the north, we have yet to achieve this in technical and trades-related career fields and this will move us closer to that goal. It also reflects our commitment to the ongoing partnership with one of our closest neighbours, the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation.”

Vale’s commitment to the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Education Authority has been used to purchase small engines, train instructors and develop the program. Vale has supported similar vocational training programs in Northern Manitoba, one of them being a power mechanics course at Frontier Collegiate Institute, which provided inspiration for the youth education project in Nelson House.

Macdonald explained that students in the class, which will be part lecture and part lab, will gain valuable, hands-on experience and learn various troubleshooting procedures as they repair engines supplied by the school. But he also notes another big plus: “Up until now, any Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation youth who wanted to enroll in a small engines program would have had to go outside the community.” Now they can study closer to home. One small engine course could lead to a big career opportunity – and that can only make the community stronger.

Reprinted with permission.