Unemployment is also linked to an increase in unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol and tobacco use, poor nutrition and physical inactivity.

Unemployment for aboriginals in Canada is significantly higher than for the non-aboriginal population. That’s why aboriginal training programs are so important. They get people ready for gainful employment opportunities.

One such program is the Aboriginal Initiatives Program, which offers a 10-week, pre-employment course. This includes safety training, carpentry skills, and industrial insulating.

“Students learn how to use a tape measure, work with angles, and learn math skills, so there are no barriers from them getting a job,” says Elmer Haan, Training and Program Manager for the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), which coordinates the program. “We work with industry to teach the skills that are needed most, but our instructors also work with students on some of the underlying issues that are present for some of the students, including unstable family environment, drug and alcohol use.”

"It’s good for the community and for industry when aboriginal people are hired into the trades. Up to 70 percent of students in the Aboriginal Initiatives Program graduate from the program."

Life skills components are also crucial in helping individuals get ready for the job market.  Haan says there are lots of cases where the students have routine, just not good routines.

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Role models are hugely important. Many students end up getting jobs outside their community and when they return home, their friends and family see the success, and want to get the same kind of training and skills. It’s good for the community and for industry when aboriginal people are hired into the trades. Up to 70 percent of students in the Aboriginal Initiatives Program graduate from the program.

These training programs are successful because of the various partners that are committed to improving employment opportunities for aboriginals. This includes the provincial and federal governments, who provide funding, aboriginal communities that provide leadership and encourage their residents to enroll in these programs, industry and the organization providing the training and education.

Haan adds that they don’t want to do training for training’s sake, but rather to ensure that graduates are finding meaningful employment, so they build strong relationships with businesses that need skilled workers.

There is a huge resource of human potential in First Nations communities. Training programs for aboriginals is the first step in preparing people for employment. These are opportunities that will improve the health of aboriginals and their communities.