by Owen Fitzgerald; Ex. Director, Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office
Port Hawkesbury – Cape Breton First Nation communities are partnering with a mainland First Nation community to pursue new economic opportunities and to train their citizens for these opportunities. The First Nation community of Paqtnkek, also known as Afton is located about halfway between the Causeway and Antigonish.
The community of Paqtnkek is planning significant commercial developments and approached the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO) to suggest a partnership that would allow their community to tap into the expertise of the UEBO in economic development and training. Paqtnkek wants to be part of the new partnership that Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office has with the NewPage Paper Mill in Port Hawkesbury and is reaching out to establish other partnerships.
“Our objective is to move towards sustainability and establish partnerships with industry to get our people employed. We like the Unama’ki economic development model and the success of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office,” said Rose Julian, economic development officer with Paqtnkek.
Staff of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office met this week at the Strait Campus of NSCC with officials from Paqtnkek First Nation to lay out plans for this partnership. The plan is for Chief Julian of Paqtnkek First Nation to become a member of the board of directors for the Unama’ki Training program (ASEP). The Native Employment Officer in Paqtnkek will become part of the ASEP training committee, making Paqtnkek an active partner in the Unama’ki ASEP Training program, which is delivered by the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office.
What makes this training program unique and successful is that it is based upon industry partnerships and trains local Aboriginals to successfully fill industry needs. “All we are doing is broadening the definition of local and welcoming neighbours”, said Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office.
The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is a unique and very successful First Nation model for economic development, one that is being recognized across Canada. This Unama’ki model involves taking a business approach to economic development. It also involves a collaborative approach to economic development, both by the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton, as well as partnerships with Industry, partnerships that are a win-win for both industry and for the communities.
“A critical part of this Unama’ki model is the fact that our office has the capacity to provide professional, ongoing support, when the person is in training, and even after they get a job, including staff that also speak the Mi’kmaq language and live in the communities. This is a critical element of why our model works,” said Alex Paul, Director of ASEP Training at the Unama’ki Economic Development Office.