Training is about to start again in Hay River for people interested in working in the marine industry.

Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre – including, left to right, job coach Constance Zvidzai, executive director Shari Caudron and employment officer Patrick MacKay – has organized a training program called Bridge Watch, which will be offered at the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre and at the British Columbia Institute of Technology in North Vancouver. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre is offering – for the first time – a 24-week program called Bridge Watch to train deckhands for vessels.

“You need that to get on any marine vessels, to be able to work on them,” said Shari Caudron, executive director of Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre, noting the training is required by Transport Canada.

Ten participants – aged the required 18 to 29 years – are to start the training on Oct. 30.

All are from Hay River or the Hay River Reserve.

“It provides them with the basic entry-level certifications they need,” Caudron said of the training, although she noted they will need further training in the future.

“We just want to see these guys succeed. I’m excited about it,” she said of the training program. “This is the first time this is happening.”

Patrick MacKay, the employment officer at Soaring Eagle, sees a possible immediate benefit from the training.

“For right now, it does secure them for places like down at the Coast Guard. They’re looking for deckhands,” said MacKay. “Right now, these courses are exactly what the Coast Guard is looking for.”

The courses include Industry Canada’s restricted operator’s certificate for maritime commercial, marine basic First Aid, basic safety training, survival craft training, handling of hazardous materials and other essential skills.

Much of the training will be offered at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

“The students will go away for 27 days to BCIT in North Vancouver,” said Caudron.

The whole process takes about 24 weeks – four or five weeks of a recruitment process, five weeks of training, and 14 weeks of subsidized on-the-job training.

The $100,000 initiative is supported by the federal Skills Link program, with some support also expected from the territorial Department of Education, Culture and Employment.

Earlier this year, the friendship centre presented a preliminary course on essential skills necessary to take the training.

The project originally started in partnership with the NWT Fishermen’s Federation.

“We’re hoping a lot of these guys will get into commercial fishing because we have an aging workforce there and they’re only catching from my understanding 30 per cent of the quota that’s out there,” Caudron said. “It’s all part of the fishing revitalization strategy.”

However, the trainees could also eventually work in the barging industry or with the Coast Guard.

Constance Zvidzai, a job coach at Soaring Eagle, said the latest training attracted a lot of interest.

Zvidzai said the cost of transportation and accommodations in Hay River were a challenge for people interested from outside the community.

“Another challenge was we don’t have the IDs,” she said.

For example, many potential participants didn’t have the proper identification documents to allow them to fly to Vancouver.

Travel to and accommodations in North Vancouver are covered by the program.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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