North Vancouver Island Aboriginal Training Society (NVIATS) is opening an office in Port Hardy at the Thunderbird Mall.
“We will have two full-time, permanent staff in our Port Hardy office,” said Tawni Wilkins NVIATS employment and media coordinator.
“We are hoping to open mid-November, pending the completion of renovations, with a grand opening in January or February,” Wilkins said.
“For 14 years our manager, Sherry Simms has travelled to the North Island to serve community members, and she is looking forward to being able to serve the NI with our new office space full time.”
NVIATS is a federally-funded, not-for-profit organization which has been helping people reach career goals for 19 years.
“Our day-to-day business is resume writing, career exploration, and interview skills just to name a few,” she said, however the services they provide to clients are much farther reaching. For instance, NVIATS provides a variety of workshops as well as short-term training in house.
“A popular one that we’ve been doing in Port Hardy is a driver’s training workshop,” she said, adding that they also offer Food Safe level one and WHMIS in house.
NVIATS relies heavily on industry to let them know what other training is required.
“If industry dictates that we need carpenters, we will fund carpenters,” said Wilkins. “We don’t train just for training’s sake. We feel it is important to listen and hear what employers need from us.”
Towards this end, “we are in the midst of organizing, with the Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce, an employer meet and greet with us.”
That date has been set for Nov. 30 from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Port Hardy chamber office. “We really want to hear from local employers and we really want to meet their needs, whether is short term training, or specific in-demand trades or careers.”
Ultimately, NVIATS is client based and will secure training for everything from jewellery making to welding and everything in between. “We’re not just black and white. We are very grey and like to make things happen for our clients.”
That involves making the process as easy as possible.
“We don’t make clients jump through a lot of hoops for our funding. We try to remove as many barriers as we possibly can.”
In addition to training and support, NVIATS runs many other programs that are valuable to those entering the workforce.
For instance, their Ready to Work Program, helps clients obtain the gear they need when they secure employment such as scrubs, steel toed boots, etc. NVIATS is busy.
“This year, we’ve already served over 800 clients,” she said. (Because it is federally funded, NVIATS’ fiscal year starts in April.)
NVIATS’ catchment areas is from north of Qualicum to Port Hardy, and includes Powell River, as well as Quadra and Cortez Islands.
“We serve 18 First Nations bands in that area,” she said, however, clients do not have to be from one of those 18 Nations to apply for services. “As long as they’re living in that area, we can fund them.”
NVIATS also provides wage subsidies to business owners. “We do offer a wage subsidy, so local businesses can approach us if they want to hire a First Nations employee, she said.
NVIATS’ hub office is in Campbell River, and they have a remote office out of Alert Bay. “This will be our third office.”
Wilkins is quick to point out that NVIATS has a close working relationship with the provincially-funded North Island Employment foundations Society (NIEFS).
“We are in no means in competition. We have a fantastic working relationship with them,” she said, adding that they sometimes partner funding with NIEFS.