Training and qualification for First Nation employees

‘Impact Benefit Agreements’ or ‘Comprehensive Benefit Agreements’ between First Nation governments and mining companies set the framework for preference for local hires. This is particularly important for the younger generation. Another important element in such agreements are training initiatives for middle-aged members of the community and young adults.


In the Yukon, the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining (CNIM) and the Yukon Mine Training Association (YMTA) provide training for a variety of jobs in the mining sector.


This training is similar to activities in other provinces and territories. Training courses can range from basic skills like literacy for those who dropped out of school, to financial management or alcohol and drug counselling.

Training for trades like mechanics, drilling, machine operators, truck drivers as well as tickets in Health & Safety or First Aid are provided in such institutions. The training courses are varied and include short-term vocational upgrade as well as longer certificate courses. CNIM and the local Yukon College community campuses also run mobile training units for a variety of trades that come right to the smaller communities for a couple of weeks at a time.


The Yukon College in Whitehorse offers diplomas such as business administration and other relevant programs, which are important for those wanting to gain employment in the mining industry in management roles.

A vocational trainer explains, “it is necessary, that people get trained before a mining boom comes back. When it is there, you maybe cannot catch up so quickly. Therefore, it is important to do the courses in the various trades during bust times – in order to be ready for work when mining comes back again”.


More and more young women are getting trained in what were formerly male dominated professions. In addition, more young First Nation people are working towards university degrees throughout Canada. 


This training is important, because First Nation employees are still often employed in lower skilled jobs and entry level positions. Companies benefit from local employment – hiring locals is cheaper than to fly-in/fly-out a professional from elsewhere. 


Today most companies have ‘community liaison’ officers. These are people who inform locals about new positions in the mine. They know very well what qualifications are needed for each position and can help you write up a resume.


They can tell you where and how to get trained for these jobs. In the Yukon, the local self-governing First Nations can subsidize the training of their members. Sometimes these initiatives are co-funded by companies.


There are also jobs in the First Nation governments related to mining, such as environmental monitoring or land-use experts. Tanya, the Human Resources manager of a mid-sized company explains, “We come to the communities on whose land we operate and inform them about what the plans for the mine are and what jobs are available. We also did an ‘open house’ event and invited members of the community to the mining site.”

Finding out what type of jobs are available and what qualifications are needed is key to employment.


Very often people only look for the jobs like driller, core sampler, cook or cleaning personnel and others are often not known to people. Tanya argues, “We have a huge variety of jobs and if you go on the Internet and check job announcements you will see that there are highly attractive positions where you can learn new skills and trades.”


According to Tanya, not all of the information necessary for successful local employment comes from the internet or company initiatives.


It is important to have role models in the community who are successful, who can talk about their jobs and inform younger people about what mining can offer.


Tanya says, “These folks can be multiplicators. Also, we need local people in all positions. Therefore it is good for us if there is a wide variety of people trained in different professions and trades in the communities.”


We, as authors of this guide, think that information about jobs and the characteristics of rotational shift-work in mining should also be made available to youth also in local schools and other places.

I knew that I liked mining and I heard that my First Nation has scholarships for training. Me and my buddy went out to Newfoundland for a two month course. Jason


We need water samplers here in the community, going out with the folks from the company. There are lots of opportunities to work for the First Nation government related to mining. Nathalie


We did an open house in the community and it was great to see our workers talking to the younger folks in the community about their job, how they got into that and so on. They just shared the information. Tanya

We are operating on First Nation land, so they need to benefit job-wise. We have agreements with the communities to hire and facilitate training, mentoring, career advancement and so on. Connie


All jobs are posted in the community, be it a superintendent position or anything else. I am the community liaison person for the company and can help and inform. Sometimes we have positions not filled for months. We really need the local people to get trained and employed. Tara